Results at Dickson Concepts (International) moved back into positive territory last year, helped by a one-off gain on the sale of its European operations, reduced expenses and signs of recovery in Hong Kong's battered retail industry. After a loss of HK$327.63 million in the previous year, the group recorded an attributable profit of HK$151.46 million in the year ended March 31. The year saw the sale, in June, of its European operations to chairman Dickson Poon. The sale, which included Harvey Nichols stores in the UK and French group ST Dupont, generated an exceptional profit of HK$320.1 million. That helped offset a HK$240 million provision taken to cover the cost of the group's foray into e-commerce and technology. Before the exceptionals the group made an operating profit - arising largely from significantly lower expenses - of HK$188.56 million compared with a loss of HK$8.2 million previously. The non-Asian businesses sold to Mr Poon contributed turnover of HK$308.43 million during the year to overall group turnover of HK$3.05 billion. Turnover from the Asian operations, which include Seibu department stores, amounted to HK$2.74 billion, down 2 per cent from the previous period. Directors recommended a final dividend of 25 HK cents a share after omitting payment in the previous year. Earnings were 57 HK cents a share compared with the previous loss per share of HK$1.22. The group last year bought back 8.43 million shares at an average of HK$8.29 each. It still held HK$600 million in cash which would be used to explore and develop new operations. Mr Poon said the group was confident about the growth of its core operations. However, he warned that consumer spending around the region remained conservative. 'With a strong infrastructure in place in each of the regional markets, the group is well positioned to take advantage of any upturns in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia,' he said. Dickson Concepts has an aggressive retail expansion programme with 16 new shops and corners opening this year. According to Mr Poon, the retailer's HK$100 million revamp of its Hong Kong Seibu operations in Windsor House and Pacific Place would mean closing the stores during the months of July and August - scheduled to coincide with Hong Kong's sales period. During the year, the group opened 23 shops around the region and increased its wholesale network. 'The cost of the expansion was more than comfortably covered by strong cash flow,' it said. Mr Poon said Dickson Cyber Concepts, the group's internet arm, could be spun off and listed on the Growth Enterprise Market by the end of the year. The e-commerce subsidiary submitted an application for listing earlier this week. The online operations were backed up with more than 20 years of retailing experience and would be used to complement Dickson's bricks and mortar operations. 'We can use it to get rid of any slow moving inventory,' he said. According to Mr Poon, analysis showed brand-building and logistic centres were critical to the success of an online retail venture. The Dickson Concept brand gave the group a tremendous competitive advantage in this area.