Marks and Spencer reports first profit rise in four years

Marks and Spencer has reported its first rise in profit for four years, with underlying profit before tax up 6.1% to £661.2m.

The positive results are good news for chief executive Marc Bolland, whose leadership of the high street chain has been in question after less than dazzling sales.

The company said that its food sales had performed strongly, with 62 new stores opening and “exceeding expectations”.

Meanwhile, general sales, which includes clothes, were not as positive with the company saying its sales performance was “challenging”, and did “not meet expectations”.

The overall profit was good news for M&S shareholders with the full year dividend up by 5.9% to 18p.

Bolland said: “We made good progress in three of our four key priorities for the year. In food, we had an outstanding year in a difficult market. In GM [general merchandise], we significantly increased the gross margin, and, while sales performance was below our expectations, we returned to growth in the fourth quarter. We continued to control costs and capital expenditure tightly, resulting in significantly improved free cash flow.”

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