Sales at HMV Group rose 2.6% to £734.2 million ($1.35 billion) in the six months ended Oct. 26, 2003, thanks to strong performance in the U.K. Operating profit rose 5.7% from the same period in

Sales at HMV Group rose 2.6% to £734.2 million ($1.35 billion) in the six months ended Oct. 26, 2003, thanks to strong performance in the U.K. Operating profit rose 5.7% from the same period in 2002 to £18.3 million ($33.7 million).

HMV Europe managing director Steve Knott says the company's U.K. & Ireland division made a "major contribution" to the first-half gains, which were "achieved against a backdrop of a highly challenging retail environment and intense competition within the entertainment retailing sector."

Sales at HMV U.K. & Ireland rose 5.2% to £360.9 million ($664.4 million), vs. £343.2 million ($631.8 million) in the same period of 2002. Operating profit grew to £16.6 million ($30 million) from £15.7 million ($28 million). Most of the growth came from new stores; HMV U.K. & Ireland opened nine new stores and repositioned two others during the six-month period. Comparable-store sales rose 0.3%.

Sales at HMV North America fell 8.2% to £61.5 million ($113.2 million), following the closure of loss-making stores in the U.S. and a 7% decline in sales volumes across Canadian oulets. Operating losses in North America were reduced to £1.8 million ($3.31 million) from £2.9 million ($5.2 million) due to improved gross margins and tighter control of costs.

Sales at HMV Asia Pacific fell 2.1% to £126.8 million ($233.4 million). Operating profit dropped 44.1% to £0.9 million ($1.7 million).

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