* FY underlying pretax 115.4 mln stg vs f'cast 112 mln
* Sales at Argos stores open more than a year up 3.3 pct
* To pay final div of 2.3p, raising FY payout 10 pct to 3.3p
* Shares broadly flat in early trade at 206p
By Neil Maidment
LONDON, April 30 Home Retail Group Plc,
Britain's biggest household goods retailer, posted a 27 percent
rise in full-year profit as a digital push at its Argos chain
and a revamp at Homebase start to bear fruit.
After tough trading during the economic downturn, in which
underlying pretax profit shrank to 91 million pounds in fiscal
2013 from 433 million five years before, the group began
implementing a turnaround plan last year aimed at pushing Argos
sales up 15 percent to 4.5 billion pounds by 2018.
Argos, which makes around 70 percent of group revenue, is
being reinvented from a catalogue firm to a digitally-led
business, targeting higher sales from tablet computers and
mobile phones and hoping to cash in on easy collection from its
The group is improving its order retrieval systems and
speeding up collections and will also trial some Argos stores
this year within Homebase home improvement outlets, where
business is benefiting from Britain's improving housing market.
The company said on Wednesday underlying pretax profit for
the year to March 1 rose to 115.4 million pounds ($194.4
million), slightly ahead of analyst forecasts averaging 112
million, on total sales up 3 percent to 5.7 billion.
Sales at Argos stores open for more than a year rose 3.3
percent, led by strong demand for TVs, games consoles and
tablets, and grew 5.9 percent at Homebase, thanks to higher
sales of big-ticket items like kitchens.
Internet sales for the full-year rose 2 percent to 44
percent of total Argos sales, led by 89 percent growth in those
made via mobiles and tablets.
Shares in Home Retail, which named Argos boss John Walden as
its new chief executive in January, were broadly flat in early
trading at 206 pence, having risen 32 percent on a year ago.
The group said it would pay a final dividend of 2.3 pence
per share, raising its full-year payout 10 percent to 3.3p.
($1 = 0.5936 British Pounds)
(Editing by Kate Holton and David Holmes)