South African retailer Mr Price Group today announced a 22 per cent increase in turnover for the six months to end September 2002, with operating profits up 47 per cent to R81.3 million.

Headline earnings of 23.6 cents per share are 50 per cent higher than the same period last year, and the interim dividend has been increased by 50 per cent to 6 cents.

In the cash division, which consists of 499 Mr Price Weekend Material, Mr Price Home and Sheet Street stores, revenues increased by 27 per cent to R1.16 billion and operating profits were up by 48 per cent. All Southern African operations improved their profitability during this period the company said.

In the credit division (Milady's, The Hub and Galaxy) revenues increased by 9 per cent to R454.4 million and operating profits were up by 25 per cent, largely as a result of the continued good performance of Milady's. Galaxy also showed an improvement on the previous year, while The Hub was slightly below last year's profit level.

Joint chairman, Laurie Chiappini, said that the South African retail industry as a whole had been showing stable performances and that Mr Price's value formula had enabled the group to capitalise on consumer confidence. "We remain confident that our value retailing formula - every-day low prices, coupled with fashionability, quality merchandise and strong branding - will drive the group for many years to come," he said.

Joint chairman Stewart Cohen, said he believed there were many other countries where Mr Price could operate successfully. "We remain in test mode in Chile where there has been considerable improvement despite the economic uncertainity in South America," he said. "However, we will not proceed to rollout stores until all the key elements for success are in place."

"We are continuing to investigate other countries and seek partnerships with leading retailers in those countries."