METZINGEN: Hugo Boss, the German fashion house, said on Thursday that its sales grew five percent in the first three months of the current year, thanks to particularly strong performances in Britain, France and Spain, while higher operating costs meant that net profit edged up only one per cent. Hugo Boss said it posted net profit of 56.6 million euros ($51 million) in the period from January to March, up from 56.3 million euros a year earlier.

Operating profit slipped by two per cent to 82.4 million euros, while sales grew to 359.1 million euros from 342.5 million euros. In terms of sales, "the key British and French markets were outstanding, reporting growth of 21 percent and 19 per cent respectively, but still outperformed by Spain at 33 per cent," the statement said. Most of the other European countries, including the important Italian and Swiss markets, posted growth of around five per cent. Only Germany remained problematic. Here, Hugo Boss sustained a drop in sales of two per cent.

Business also declined in the US where sales fell by 12 per cent in the first three months, while sales in southeast Asia were up 29 per cent and Japanese sales grew by four per cent.

Hugo Boss said its first-quarter sales and net profit figure "confirm our expectations for the whole of 2002."

Thus, full-year sales were projected to rise five per cent to 1.15 billion euros.

"And net profit is expected to reach a level at least on par with the 2001 figure of 107 million euros," the statement said.