Department store chain Stockmann OYJ on Tuesday posted a healthy rise in first half net profit on the back of an 8.3 per cent climb in sales.

The Helsinki-based company, which also has a vehicle unit, posted net income of 19.7 million euros versus 16 million euros last year as sales rose to 801.6 million euros from 740.3 million euros in the same period of 2002.

The firm's department store division's saw its sales grow three per cent to 382.6 million euros while its operating profit was flat at 6.1 million euros.

It added in a statement: "The Stockmann group's sales growth is estimated to outpace the overall market growth. Sales in 2003 are estimated to top 1.7 billion euros.

"The group's third-quarter earnings are estimated to improve on the result reported for the same period of 2002. The Stockmann group's previously stated earnings estimate for 2003 is unchanged."