WH Smith continues to boost profits amid falling sales

WH Smith

Last Updated at 15 Sep 2014, 06:02 ET *Chart shows local time WH Smith intraday chart
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WH Smith has said its strategy of boosting profit margins to offset falling sales continues to bring results, with railways and airport outlets doing well.

Profits rose 5% for the six months to end of February to £69m.

Cost cuts also helped to cheer investors and shares rose 5%.

The company's smaller outlets at transport points, including motorway service stations, outperformed, with profits rising 7%.

That offset the High Street outlets, where profits rose by 2%.

Profit margins overall rose by 1.6%.

WH Smith's chief executive, Kate Swann, who is leaving the company after 10 years, said: "We expect the trading environment to remain challenging. However, the business is in good shape and is well positioned for continued growth in both the UK and internationally."

WH Smith was once one of the biggest retailers in the UK, and one of the biggest companies with a place among the top 100.

Although it is now a far smaller business, Ms Swann's actions have at least put the company on a solidly profitable footing.

She streamlined the way the business was run and bought back shares to help boost the share price, which is now 50% higher than it was three years ago.

The company remains one of the country's best known, but for years struggled to define its presence on the High Street, as online retailing made inroads into its traditional role as a book and music seller.

More recently, its newspaper sales have been under attack as people increasingly read papers online.

WH Smith is expanding internationally and plans to open 30 kiosks in China.

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