March 27, 2014 / 9:51 AM / 4 years ago

STOCKS NEWS EUROPE-Laura Ashley a top small-cap gainer on sales boost

Shares in Laura Ashley rise 9 percent in heavy volume to be the second-biggest FTSE Small Cap gainer after the retail and women’s clothing company reports a rise in full-year pretax profit and says comparable sales in the first two months of the current financial year rose 2 percent.

Traded volume in the stock is heavy in early deals, at 118 percent of its three-month daily average after less than two hours of trade, against less than 20 percent for the broader index.

Famous for its feminine and floral designs, the 60-year-old company says pretax profit rises to 20.5 million pounds ($33.96 million) for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 25 from 20.1 million pounds a year earlier.

“Encouragingly, the company has negotiated a number of new licenses for other categories, including kitchens and cosmetics, which will benefit 2015,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Freddie George says in a note.

George added that 2015 results should benefit from a recovery in fashion after a strong fourth-quarter and robust performance in decorating and home accessories categories.

Britain’s Laura Ashley said last year that it planned to tap into the recovery in the housing market by targeting a younger clientele for its homewares division.

The company also declares a final dividend of 1 pence per share taking total dividend to 3.5 pence per share for the year.

($1 = 0.6037 British Pounds)

Reuters messaging rm://aastha.agnihotri.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net

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