Travel arm drives WH Smith profits

British books and stationery retailer WH Smith has reported a 6.9% rise in annual pre-tax profits — to £140m (€157m) — with growth led by outlets at airports and other travel sites.

WH Smith said trading profit at its more than 750 outlets at travel hubs, including railway stations and motorway service areas, rose 10.3% to £96m and now makes up over 60% of its trading profit.

Trading profit at its UK-based high street outlets was flat at £62m. The company increased its final dividend by 10% to take the year’s total payout to investors to 48.2p a share.

However, shares in the company were down 2.6%, having risen more than 45% so far this year.

The company’s travel business has been expanding internationally. It announced the win of six units in both Rome airports, adding another country to its mainland European presence of Alicante and Dusseldorf.

In Ireland, WH Smith’s presence is entirely via its travel arm. The retailer has 14 outlets across Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports. Previously-filed accounts, earlier this year, for WH Smith’s Irish division showed that its profits fell by nearly 39% to €1.1m, but it generated record revenue levels of nearly €27m.

Yesterday, WH Smith said that its UK-based travel business sales over the summer also benefited from a sharp rise in the number of foreigners visiting Britain.

additional reporting Reuters

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