Business

Marks and Spencer profits rise as boss bows out

High Street retailer Marks and Spencer (M&S) has reported a rise in profits in its last set of results under outgoing executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose.

M&S saw a 4.6% rise in pre-tax profits to £632.5m for the 52 weeks to 27 March, adjusted for property disposals.

Sir Stuart has been handing over to new chief executive Marc Bolland, who arrived on 1 May, and will become non-executive chairman on 31 July.

Sir Stuart also said consumers were cautious about the upcoming Budget.

'Cautious outlook'

M&S said UK like-for-like sales, which exclude the impact of new store openings, rose 0.9% over the 52 weeks.

Sales of general merchandise, which includes clothes, increased 1.6% while food sales were up 0.3%.

"We have had a satisfactory start to the first quarter. Consumers are naturally concerned about any impact of the Budget on 22 June," Sir Stuart said.

"We therefore remain cautious about the outlook for the year ahead."

For the 53 weeks to 3 April, including the Easter week, profits were £694.6m.

Unadjusted pre-tax profit for the 52 weeks fell to £640.6m from £706.2m a year ago, when results were boosted by a one-off pension credit.

M&S England World Cup suit launch
Marks and Spencer sells the official England World Cup suits

'Great hire'

Sir Stuart said that "with the worst effects of the recession behind us" he was confident that M&S would continue to grow under Mr Bolland's direction.

"Marc is a great hire," he said of his successor. "He's settled in remarkably well. I'm confident that Marc has all the credentials necessary to take this business forward."

However, Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at the stockbrokers Hargeaves Lansdown, said "the changes in key management positions threaten to undermine a smooth recovery".

Speaking of his own time at the helm, Sir Stuart said he was "immensely proud" that he had saved the company from being taken into private ownership.

He also said that he agreed with the coalition government's £6.2bn spending cuts, outlined on Monday.

"The government has taken what I consider to be very sensible action," he told the BBC.

"I think the consumer wanted it, I think the consumer is ready for it and I think the consumer is very wise."

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