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£27m loss for Harvey Norman’s Irish unit

The Irish unit of Australian retailer Harvey Norman has again stated that it “is committed to Ireland for the long-term” in spite of recording pre-tax losses of €31.3m (£27.3m) last year.

New accounts filed for the Irish unit provide some fine-tuning of financial details released by the company last year, when it had indicated a pre-tax loss of $50.4m (€34.7m or £30.3m at the time) at its Irish operations in the 12 months to the end of June 2010.

The retailer has 14 outlets in the Republic and two in Northern Ireland, at Holywood and Newtownabbey.

Figures in the newly-filed accounts for Harvey Norman Holdings (Ireland), show that revenues rose 3% in the last financial period to €140.2m (£112.2m).

That includes revenue of €127.2m (£111.3m) for its stores in the Republic, a 1.4% increase year-on-year, with the remainder generated at its two outlets in Northern Ireland.

Harvey Norman noted last year that when its sales from the Republic were converted into Australian dollars, sales revenue for the purpose of the group annual report actually fell 13.5% due to a sharp fall in the value of the euro versus the Australian dollar.

The seller of homeware, furniture, computers and consumer electronics employs around 800 people on the island of Ireland. Its furniture sales account for about 20% of revenue.

In the accounts, the directors stated: “Retail rents across the sector are distorted and do not reflect market reality and we welcome the Government's renewed commitment to abolishing upward-only rent reviews for existing leases.”

Earlier this year Harvey Norman's boss in Ireland, Blaine Callard, said he hoped the business would break even within four or five years. The Irish division has lost money in all but one of the years since it entered the market here in 2003.

Figures show that the company has accumulated loss of €78.4m (£68.5) at the end of last June.

Harvey Norman has struggled in the Irish market since first opening eight years ago.

In 2008, Harvey Norman executive chairman and owner Gerry Harvey said that he regretted expanding into Northern Ireland.

In relation to Ireland, Mr Harvey told The Irish Times: “I just can’t believe we got ourselves into so much trouble”.

“A drastic improvement in macroeconomic conditions in Ireland”, was needed before it could make a profit, he said.