Japan's biggest clothing retailer Fast Retailing Co, has reported an 8.7% rise in first quarter profit, boosted by strong sales of core winter products such as cashmere sweaters and down jackets.

For the three months to 30 November 2007, the owner of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain said net income was up to JPY15.4bn year-on-year (US$140.2m), as net sales rose 10.6% to JPY160.4bn.

Net sales at the flagship Uniqlo Japan chain exceeded expectations with a 6.4% rise in the quarter, helped by 25 new stores and cold weather in October which boosted demand for products like Heat Tech clothing which uses a heat retaining fabric. However, same-store sales were flat, the company said.

Its Uniqlo International operation moved into profit for the first time in the quarter, with sales almost doubling to JPY7.1bn.

For the full year to August 2008, the company expects net sales of JPY30.0bn at its overseas Uniqlo stores and a reduction in operating losses to JPY0.4bn.

Sales at Fast Retailing's other overseas brands such as Comptoir Des Cotonniers and Princesse Tam.Tam rose 43% to JPY12.3bn. The company said it expects full-year sales for the Global Brands operation of JPY43.0bn, and operating income of JPY7.4bn.

Fast Retailing reaffirmed its full-year profit forecast of JPY38.8bn on an 8.5% rise in sales to JPY570bn.

The company also said it will launch a takeover bid for Osaka-based shoe retailer Viewcompany Co. It plans to increase its stake in the company from 33.4% to 66.7% at a cost of up to JPY2.9bn.