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Debenhams profits on the up

Department store operator Debenhams said its business in Ireland remains challenging, as the wider group reported better than expected figures for the first half of its financial year.

Pre-tax profit at the group, Britain's second biggest department store chain after Marks & Spencer, rose 4.3pc to £89m (€123.7m). That was higher than the £84m it expected to make. Shares in the retailer soared over 6pc.

It said that group sales rose 1.3pc on a like-for-like basis, with gross transaction value 2.3pc higher at £1.6bn (€2.2bn) in the 26 weeks to the end of February.

Debenhams added that its performance had been helped by refocusing its promotional strategy and its online service.

Debenhams has 11 stores in Ireland, but stressed the operation is a small part of the overall group.

Its Irish arm made a €6.2m operating loss in the year to the end of August.