Harvey Norman to take on Europe

Harvey Norman will move its retail operations into Europe with the planned opening of its first store in Slovenia by November next year.

The building application for the retailer's newest international store has been finalised and construction is due to begin after Christmas, chairman Gerry Harvey told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting today. The move is set to complement Harvey Norman's move into Asia and hopefully act as a springboard for the rest of Europe.

"It is an emerging country with great potential," Harvey told the meeting.

The retail giant posted a net profit of $110.31 million after tax for the 12 months to June 30, 2000 - an increase of 37.7 per cent on last year. Sales for the year were up 27 per cent on the previous year - with a fully franked dividend of 2 cents per share to be paid on December 4.

Shareholders also voted to grant options on two million shares to general manager of computers and communications John Slack-Smith and also to Stephen Hauville, who will head up the electrical division of the company.

"Electricals and computers represent around 70 per cent of our total business," Harvey continued. "In the past I've done both these jobs but I can't continue to do that. We have got to look at the bigger picture - this is part of the evolution of the company."

The directors also detailed the results of Harvey Norman's Asian operations, which recorded revenues of about $97 million last financial year across its six stores. Harvey Norman also distributes for Samsung in Malaysia, an operation which Harvey describes as "a good little business".

And while retailers complain of decreasing sales, Harvey Norman's retail sales are up 18 per cent year on year for the two most notorious retailing months for slow sales this year, July and August.

"It is difficult to work out. Our sales are quite good. You talk to franchises and they say it is not too good but when you get the figures out it is not that bad at all," he said.

Harvey described the computer business as "OK", admitting sales have been "all over the place" and GST implementation has been confusing.

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