(Adds details, shares)
LONDON, April 10 British books, newspaper and
stationery retailer WH Smith raised its payout to
shareholders on Thursday, reflecting its confidence in future
prospects after it posted a 3 percent rise in first-half profit.
The firm, which has over 1,200 stores, primarily in the UK,
said headline pretax profit for the six months to end-February
rose to 70 million pounds ($117 million) from 68 million pounds
a year ago.
It said it would pay a half-year dividend of 10.8 pence, up
15 percent on the prior year.
Total sales and sales at stores open over a year fell 4
percent, following an established trend. But its gross margin
rose by 190 basis points due to a more profitable product mix
and cost control.
In WH Smith's travel division, made up of outlets at
airports, railway stations, motorway service stations, hospitals
and workplaces, total sales rose 2 percent, reflecting some
recent improvement in UK air passenger trends.
According to Reuters data, analysts on average expect the
firm to post a 3.6 percent rise in 2014 pretax profit to 112
Shares in the company were trading up 1.5 percent at 1,188
pence at 0709 GMT, valuing it at 1.44 billion pounds.
($1 = 0.5971 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Neil Maidment; Editing by Erica