Fashion retailer Benetton SpA said it expected its pre-tax earnings to rise more than 40 per cent over the next three years to EUR324 million.

The company, which presented its 2004-2007 forecasts at investor relations meetings in Milan and London on Tuesday, said the target was part of a strategy to relaunch the company.

Detailed in the strategy was an expected gross profit rise of 22.5 per cent to EUR991m in 2007, and projected revenue growth of 18.5 per cent to EUR2.19 billion in the same year.

Debt, meanwhile, was expected to be cut to EUR164m in 2007 from an estimated EUR475m this year.

To achieve these aims, the company said it intended to take advantage of the strong global recognition of its brands, in particular Benetton and Sisley.

According to Benetton Group CEO Silvano Cassano, however, the company's sports-oriented brands Killer Loop and Playlife "have a lot of mileage that we want to take advantage of."

He also projected "significant growth" outside the company's current mainstay of southern Europe, but said this would depend on the development of its commercial network, its product mix and an increase in sales per square metre.

Benetton has distribution channels in 120 countries and has about 5000 franchised retail stores worldwide.

By Chris Veraa.