* Underlying pretax profit 166.9 mln stg vs 133.1 mln stg
* Total sales flat at 2.68 bln stg
* Like-for-like sales down 0.7 pct, down 3.2 pct in UK
* Margin up 1.2 percentage points
* Lfl sales up 0.7 pct, inc VAT, in first 10 weeks of new year
LONDON, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Arcadia, the Topshop-to-Bhs British retail group owned by the family of billionaire Philip Green, posted a 25 percent rise in underlying year profit as a drive to increase efficiency boosted margins.
The group, which also owns the Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Evans brands, also said on Wednesday that sales at stores open over a year, including VAT sales tax, were up 0.7 percent in the first ten weeks of its new financial year.
Arcadia made a pretax profit before one off items of 166.9 million pounds ($265.6 million) in the year to August 25, up from 133.1 million pounds last year when they had fallen 38 percent.
British retailers are mostly struggling as consumers hold back spending in the face of job insecurity, rising prices, subdued wages growth and government austerity measures.
Arcadia’s total sales from about 2,500 UK stores and 615 franchised outlets in 39 countries were flat at 2.68 billion pounds, while like-for-like sales were down 0.7 percent and down 3.2 percent in the UK. However, margins rose 1.2 percentage points.
“We have focused our efforts on being efficient in both stock management and delivering newness as regularly as possible, resulting in improved markdown and margin,” said Green.
He said the group’s focus in the new year would be to drive expansion in the United States and its international on-line business.
E-commerce sales rose 22 percent in the 2011-12 year.
Arcadia, which generated cash of 330.4 million pounds during the year and ended the period with bank debt of 308.9 million pounds, said trading conditions “remain challenging”.
But for the seventh year running Green, whose family ranked 17th on the 2012 Sunday Times UK rich list with an estimated fortune of 3.3 billion pounds, did not pay himself a dividend.
In 2005 Green geared up the business to pay his family a 1.2 billion pound dividend.
To see an interview with Philip Green please click on: ($1 = 0.6284 British pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Sarah Young)