Australian retail group Coles Myer Ltd has posted a 10.5% rise in half-year net profit after tax (NPAT) to A$484.5m, on sales 4.3% higher at $19.0bn.  The company has also announced some structural and executive changes ahead of its divestment of the Myer department stores business.

Coles Myer said that on a comparable basis, net profit after tax for the 26 weeks to 29 January 2006 rose by 16.6%, after the impact of capital management changes was taken into account. The result was at the higher end of analysts’ forecasts.

“This has been another very strong half for the group in which we have more than doubled the profit and return on investment of four years ago,” said Coles Myer CEO John Fletcher. “Coles Myer’s earnings for the first half of FY2006 were higher than for the whole of FY2003, indicating just how far the group has come in a few short years.”

Group EBIT increased by 15.1% to $735.6m. Earnings from food and liquor rose by 8.8%, excluding transformation costs. The company has opened 69 new stores and refurbished a further 107 over the past six months.

In advance of its divestment of the Myer department store business, the company has unveiled a new simpler structure for its supermarket operations, with a restructured management team reporting directly to Fletcher.

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“The new structure will build capacity in the critical functions of supermarkets merchandise and marketing and will integrate leadership of transformational activities with day-to-day operations,” Fletcher said.

The finalisation of the Myer divestment is expected to take place within the next few months.