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Mothercare hopeful for future after completing store closures

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Mothercare store in Altricham, Britain, May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Yates/File Photo

(Reuters) - Embattled UK retailer Mothercare Plc slashed its outstanding net debt to just under 7 million pounds last year as it completed a programme of store closures that its leadership hopes will put the company on a more solid financial footing.

The baby products retailer, on an emergency footing that has seen it close a third of its UK stores in the past 12 months, registered a loss before tax from continuing operations of 67 million pounds versus 94 million pounds a year earlier.

But the company, which aims to be debt-free by the end of 2019, slashed its debt burden by 84.4% compared to a year ago to just 6.9 million pounds.

Shares of the owner of the Little Bird, Baby K and Blooming Marvellous brands surged 19.1% to 24.3 pence in response.

"We have achieved a huge amount this year, refinancing, restructuring and reorganising Mothercare to ensure a sustainable future for the business," Chief Executive Officer Mark Newton-Jones said.

"The majority of that work is now done."

The high street retailer has been facing intense competition from a new generation of online players which forced it to take radical steps last year that included closing over a third of its UK stores.

Like-for-like sales in the UK, where it has been losing money for more than a decade, continued to falter and tumbled nearly 9%. Annual worldwide sales slipped 8% to 1.07 billion pounds.

"The next phase of our strategic transformation plan is to develop Mothercare as a global brand, maximising the opportunities we see across many international markets," Newton-Jones said.

($1 = 0.7884 pounds)

(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)

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