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Dixons Retail boss: Comet demise will be 'helpful'

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Comet
The chief executive of Dixons Retail - the owner of Currys and PC World - has said that it can take advantage of the demise of rival Comet.

Sebastian James said that it was too early to fully understand the impact of the 236-store Comet chain going into administration, but the development would be "helpful from a market share perspective".

After calling in administrators Deloitte this month, Comet has shut down 41 stores and announced plans to close another 125 by the end of the year unless a buyer for the business can be found.

Some 70 Comet stores will continue trading until they have sold all their stock. Should a buyer not be found, Comet would be the biggest casualty on the British high street since Woolworths.

But speaking as Dixons Retail released its first-half fiscal year results, James told analysts that Currys and PC World were well-placed to pick up Comet's customers.

Dixons Retail saw UK and Ireland like-for-like sales rise 3% in the 24 weeks to October 31, buoyed by a spike in TV sales around the 'summer of sport'.

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Operating profit increased to £5.6 million, compared with a loss of £6m in the same period in 2011. This was the first time that the company had recorded a first-half profit in five straight years.

Dixons Retail made an underlying pre-tax loss of £22.2m over the period, but that was down from £25.3m in the same period last year.

"I am particularly encouraged by our performance in the UK and Ireland and in Northern Europe, and we were particularly busy during the sporting and cultural events during the summer," said James in a statement.

"While August and September were, as expected, a bit quieter, we remain cautiously optimistic about the outlook.

"It is increasingly clear in each of our markets that our service-based, multi-channel business model is what customers want. We are outpacing our competitors, and have seen Comet enter administration in the UK and Expert exiting the market in Sweden."

Shares in Dixons Retail fell 3% in early morning trading to 25.3p.

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