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Business

Fast Retailing enjoying solid growth in China, SE Asia

Uniqlo operator reports overseas profit rose 66% in Sept.-Feb. half

Fast Retailing's Tadashi Yanai speaks at an earnings briefing in Tokyo on April 13.

TOKYO -- China and Southeast Asia are increasingly becoming growth drivers for Fast Retailing, which operates the Uniqlo chain of casual clothing stores.

On Thursday, the Japanese company booked a net profit of 97.23 billion yen ($890 million) for the six months through February, almost double on the year from 47.04 billion yen. Fast Retailing's fiscal year starts in September.

The main growth drivers were its stores outside Japan. The operating profit for its overseas Uniqlo stores rose 66% to 48.77 billion yen, while that for its Japanese outlets increased 7% to 68.78 billion yen. "Profits in China and Southeast Asia significantly contributed," said Tadashi Yanai, chairman, president and CEO of the company, at a briefing in Tokyo.

According to the company, in China, Uniqlo stores attracted consumers with campaigns tied to China's national holidays. The spread of e-commerce has helped its Chinese business, too. As for Southeast Asia, regional items including summer wear and hijabs -- scarf-like head coverings worn by Muslim women -- sold well.

In contrast, Uniqlo stores made a loss in the U.S. market for the six months, with a 300 million yen loss on one store closure.

As of the end of February, the company had 514 Uniqlo stores in China, 25 in Singapore, 37 in Malaysia, 34 in Thailand, 35 in the Philippines and 10 in Indonesia. The total figure for these countries increased by 51 during the six months.

Regarding the Japanese market, in which the company had 832 Uniqlo stores, Yanai stressed that the company "is not considering raising prices at all," because, he said, Japan's wage levels have not increased enough. Instead, the company said it will continue its usual "everyday reasonable price" strategy.

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