Mother and baby products retailer Mothercare Plc slumped to a first-half loss and cut its dividend as dire UK trading eclipsed strong growth overseas.
The firm, which last month parted company with Chief Executive Ben Gordon after a third profit warning this year wiped out over a third of the company's stock market value, said on Thursday it was launching a structural and operational review of its UK business.
Mothercare made an underlying pretax loss of 4.4 million pounds in the 28 weeks to October 8, compared with a profit of 12.2 million in the same period last year.
After booking exceptional charges of 78.5 million pounds relating to the restructuring of the UK business, the company made a pretax loss of 81.4 million.
The first-half performance reflected a near 10 percent second-quarter sales slump at UK stores open more than a year, as trading deteriorated after the August riots, particularly in bigger-ticket items such as push chairs and car seats.
Mothercare is battling intense competition in the UK from supermarkets and Internet players, as well as consumer uncertainty in the face of tough macro-economic headwinds.
Total first-half group sales rose 4.0 percent to 412.9 million pounds. UK sales fell 4.3 percent, while international rose 15.7 percent.
Mothercare is trying to restructure its business in Britain and in May it detailed plans to close about 110 UK stores over two years as leases expire.
The firm cut its interim dividend to 2.0 pence from 6.4 pence last time.
Shares in Mothercare, down 70 percent over the last year, closed at 160 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at 142 million pounds.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Holmes)