PRINTING and marketing services group St Ives, which includes Suffolk-based book printer Clays, today posted an increase in underlying annual earnings.

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St Ives reported a profit of £24.2million before tax and exceptional items for the 52 weeks to July 27, up from £20.9m the previous year, on turnover of £327.4m against £296.8m.

The bottom line pre-tax total dipped from £16.9m to £14.9m, largely reflecting restructuring costs and impairment charges.

However, with underlying earnings per share rising 8% to 15.61p, the group plans to lift its total dividend for the year by 9.5% to 5.75p per share.

The group said that revenue at its books business, which includes Bungay-based Clays, fell by 2.7% compared with the previous year to £75m and there had also been a negative impact on profitability from the trend towards smaller print runs.

However, it added that investment in new digital equipment, due to come on stream shortly, would leave it better positioned to capitalise on this continuing trend.

Group chief executive Patrick Martell said: “We have made continued progress in our transformational plan to build a substantial and broadlybased marketing services offering whilst moving away from commoditised print, and this has resulted in a significantly improved financial performance.”

He added: “Trading conditions remain difficult, but we are in a strong financial position and will continue to invest to realise growth opportunities, to improve operational efficiencies, and to develop the business for the long term benefit of our shareholders.”

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