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Uniqlo operator says annual profit soars to record

Strong sales at overseas stores, particularly in China and Asia-Pacific, helped Uniqlo's parent Fast Retailing chalk up record annual net profits (AFP Photo/DANIEL NAUPOLD)

Tokyo (AFP) - Uniqlo's parent company said Thursday that its annual net profit more than doubled from a year ago to a record thanks to strong sales and as a cheaper yen inflated profits.

Fast Retailing's net profit came in at 119 billion yen ($1 billion) in the fiscal year through August, with revenue up 4.2 percent at 1.86 trillion yen, it said.

Asia's biggest retailer -- a rival of Zara, Gap and H&M -- said sales were particularly strong at Uniqlo's foreign outlets including in China and around Asia-Pacific.

Fast Retailing has refocused its strategy on luring bargain-hunters after an earlier bid to raise prices hurt Uniqlo's sales.

Operating profit for the latest period also surged, jumping nearly 39 percent to 176 billion yen thanks partly to cost-cutting and a smaller loss in its US business, the company said.

"Several factors contributed to this strong performance, including a considerable improvement in the gross profit to net sales margin following the shift towards much tighter discounting... the positive effects of cost-cutting efforts, and a halving of the operating loss at Uniqlo USA," it said in a statement.

For the year to August 2018, the company expects a 120 billion yen net profit with operating profit at 200 billion yen on sales of 2.05 trillion yen, up 10 percent, as it eyes opening more stores outside Japan.