M&S Underlines Recovery with Q3 Sales Rise

Marks and Spencer reported its sixth consecutive quarter of underlying sales growth, in line with analysts' expectations and underlining a recovery at the iconic British retailer.

At Marks and Spencer's British stores third quarter like-for-like sales -- which reflect how successful the chain was at generating sales from the same floor space -- rose 5.6%.

Underlying food sales rose by 3.6%, while underlying sales of general merchandise rose 7.1% as better product, more competitive pricing and a strong advertising campaign helped Marks and Spencer to gain market share.

"We have now delivered growth on growth in all areas of our business, thus completing the first part of our recovery plan. We remain on track to further drive and broaden our business," Chief Executive Stuart Rose said in a statement.

Marks and Spencer's online business, which has lagged some of its high street rivals, also gained with sales up over 70%.

"The website was our busiest "store" in the quarter with over 9 million customers visiting the site over the period, "Marks and Spencer said.

International sales also performed strongly, rising 18.2%.

Analysts expected Marks and Spencer to report as much as a 6% increase in like-for-like sales, food sales up by more than 3% and general merchandise by 7.5%.

It is trading on a calendar 2007 price-to-earnings estimate of 15.4 times compared with 11.7 times for Next to 12 times for Debenhams.