Italian fashion retailer Benetton announced on Monday that its net profit rose to 31.3 million euros in the third quarter from 22.3m in the same period last year.

In a statement, the clothing group said nine-month net profit after extraordinaries fell to 98.6m euros against 108.1m euros in January-September 2000.

"The group's activity (so far this year) allows us to forecast consolidated revenues will rise this year while profit will fall slightly from what we recorded last year," Benetton said.

When it reported first-half results, Benetton had forecast profit would be flat on last year's. In 2000, net profit stripped of extraordinary gains from selling off its Formula One team came in at 174m euros.

Benetton shares have been pummelled since the beginning of the year, registering a year high of 22.27 euros at the very beginning of January but now lounging at less than half of that.

Meanwhile, Benetton has announced it will open four mega stores in Paris later this month as part of the company's new marketing strategy, which aims to strengthen its position on the French market.

The new stores will open their doors on November 22 and follow similar store openings in Nantes, Amien and Reims, France.

(C) Reuters Limited 2001.

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