M and S posts first annual profit rise in four years

Marks and Spencer has revealed its first increase in annual profits in four years (AFP Photo/Thomas Samson) (AFP/File)

London (AFP) - Britain's Marks and Spencer on Wednesday revealed the first increase in annual profits in four years in a turnaround under chief executive Marc Bolland, partly thanks to "outstanding" food sales.

Underlying pre-tax profits climbed 6.1 percent to £661.2 million ($1.03 billion, 924 million euros) in the group's financial year to March 28, M&S said in a results statement.

That was the first annual rise since 2010 -- when Bolland took the reins -- and compared with £622.9 million in 2013/2014.

Net profits or earnings after taxation slid seven percent to £486.5 million, while revenues increased 0.4 percent to £10.3 billion.

"We are transforming M&S into a stronger, more agile business -- putting the right infrastructure, capabilities and talent in place to drive our strategic priorities," said Bolland, who was previously boss of supermarket Morrison.

Since Bolland's arrival in 2010, M&S has invested billions of pounds into the business in a concerted attempt to turn around its fortunes.

"We have chosen to do this the hard way. We have chosen to do the right investments."

He added: "This is a tough market, and I expect it to remain tough for the next year."

M&S food meanwhile enjoyed "an outstanding year in a difficult market", he noted.

Sales of food grew 0.6 percent despite fierce competition from traditional supermarket rivals and booming German discounters Aldi and Lidl.

"We expect the UK food market to remain challenging but we are well positioned with a differentiated product offer and a store format that caters for the changes in customer shopping habits," M&S said.

"Delivery of our new stores will help drive sales growth over the coming year."

However, the group added that annual sales in its general merchandise division -- which includes clothing -- fell 3.1 percent as unusually warm autumn weather hit demand for coats and knitwear.

But the division experienced an upturn in the final quarter and was now set for a period of "modest sales growth", it added.

Nearing midday in London, M&S shares rose 1.71 percent to 595.50 pence on the British capital's FTSE 100 index of top companies, which rose 0.18 percent.