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Kate Swann to step down as CEO of WHSmith despite increasing profits

Book and stationery retailer WHSmith has reported higher than expected full year profits as it announced that its chief executive Kate Swann is to step down.


Kate Swann to step down as CEO of WHSmith despite increasing profits

Book and stationery retailer WHSmith has reported higher than expected full year profits as it announced that its chief executive Kate Swann is to step down.

In the year to end August, total pre-tax profit increased by 10% to £102 million. Group profit from trading operations was up 7% to £117 million driven by a strong performance from the group’s travel business where trading profit  rose 11% to £63 million.  Trading at the group’s high street stores was "resilient" with trading profit rising 4% to £54 million.

Group total sales were down 2% with like-for-like sales down 5%. Whereas total sales at the travel business were up 2%, like-for-like sales fell by 3%. Total sales at the group’s high street stores fell 5%, as did like-for-like sales. WH Smith said this was in line with its strategic plan.

Commenting on the results, Kate Swann  said: "We have delivered another strong performance across the Group with EPS up 22% in the year.  In Travel we have grown profit by 11% and have made further good progress in our international channel, with over 100 units either open or won.  In High Street we saw another resilient performance, with profit up 4% and continued strong cash generation.

"Looking ahead, we expect the trading environment to remain challenging, however we are a resilient business with a consistent record of both profit growth and cash generation, and we are well positioned for continued growth in the UK and internationally."

In a separate announcement the retailer said that Swann would be stepping down from her role as chief executive next June after nine years with the business.  She will be succeeded by Steve Clarke who is currently managing director of the high street business.

Walker Boyd, WHSmith chairman, said: "Kate has made an outstanding contribution to WHSmith.  The Board is particularly grateful to her for her vision, dedication and leadership which has seen WHSmith go from strength to strength and deliver exceptional shareholder value during her tenure as Chief Executive.  She has built an excellent management team and has put in place a strategy which will continue to deliver for all our stakeholders.  We wish her well for the future.

"I am delighted that Steve will be Kate's successor.  Steve has been instrumental in the development and execution of the Company Strategy that has led to its outstanding performance. Steve is the unanimous choice of the Board as he has the qualities and experience to lead the Company and continue its record of delivering superior shareholder returns."

Swann added: "It has been a great privilege to lead WHSmith for the last nine years.  I am extremely proud of what the team has achieved during my time as Chief Executive. WHSmith has a first class management team who are focused on running the business in the best interests of shareholders.  I am also delighted that the Board has appointed Steve as my successor as I know that WHSmith will continue to thrive under his leadership.

In addition, Robert Moorhead will take on the role of group finance director and chief operating officer in July 2013. Moorhead joined WHSmith in 2004 as retail finance director and joined the Board in 2008 when he was appointed as group finance director.

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