French luxury goods firm Hermès has posted an 8.7% increase in full-year net profit to EUR268.4m (US$357.7m), lifted by its sale of a stake in Leica Camera and an acceleration in end-of-year sales.

The company, which will soon be opening an online store for distribution in the UK, showed 6.1% sales growth for the financial year 2006, saying that all continents contributed to growth.

Consolidated sales reached EUR1.5bn under the impetus of a strong fourth quarter, and the French comany's distribution network continued to expand with 26 branches opened or renovated.

The company has also announced plans to inject EUR150m in bolstering its distribution network and boosting production of its workshops in 2007, reported Dow Jones Newswires.

Hermès employed 6,825 people as at end of 2006, with 675 new staff members hired during the year to strengthen production and distribution.

In its outlook, the company said it would continue to invest in expanding its distribution network, improve production capacities, and continue its strategy based on creativity, product quality and craftsmanship spirit.

Shareholders will be asked to approve a dividend up 14%, to EUR0.95 per share.