Department store group Debenhams Plc on Tuesday reported a 9.6 per cent rise in full year pre-tax profit to £168.4 million from £153.6m in the year-ago period on the back of strong clothing sales.

The London-based operator of more than 100 stores said total sales in the 12 months to the end of August climbed 6.7 per cent to £1.81 billion from £1.7bn last year.

Debenhams is recommending a £1.66bn, or 455p a share, takeover offer from private equity groups CVC Capital and Texas Pacific, although rival bidder Laragrove could still step in with a bid.

Chairman Peter Jarvis said: "Debenhams has continued to deliver a strong performance in the year to August 2003. These results underline the quality of our business and the strength of its appeal to our customers.

"Trading in the early stages of the new financial year is encouraging, with total sales for the six weeks to Saturday 11 October 2003 up by 8.6 per cent and like-for-like sales up 2.7 per cent with the gross merchandise margin up 0.5 percentage points.

"Our clothing divisions are continuing to perform well, particularly womenswear, and we are also encouraged by our new stores in Birmingham and Northern Ireland."