HMV Posts First-half Loss, Better Christmas Sales

British music and book retailer HMV Group reported a first-half loss of 31.8 million pounds ($61.6 million) on Thursday, but said group sales had improved over Christmas in the UK and Ireland.

"The markets in which we operate continue to be very difficult," said Chief Executive Simon Fox.

"The actions the group has taken to improve its competitive position are yielding benefits, but these are not sufficient to offset the profound changes taking place in our markets," he added. "We will do more."

In the five weeks to Jan. 6, group sales rose 10.3%, although like-for-like sales fell 0.8%. In the UK and Ireland, like-for-like sales grew 0.7% over Christmas.

Last month, HMV warned that an uninspiring Christmas music chart, topped by Take That, and discounting by online rivals had hit sales. It said the value of the UK music market, including digital downloading, fell 14% during October and November.

Discounting by rival booksellers hit HMV's Waterstone's division, where like-for-like sales fell 2% over Christmas.

Group sales were 767.2 million pounds in the six months to Oct. 28, compared to 759.7 million a year earlier, with growth from new stores and the acquisition of Ottakar's bookstores offsetting a like-for-like sales decline of around 5.5%.