By Chris Nicholls

SYDNEY: Harvey Norman has again produced record profits, with a 31.1 per cent increase in half-year profit to December 31 2007, compared to the same time last year.

The retail group managed the profit increase, which took overall profit to $174.14 million, despite only a 12.4 per cent sales increase. The result also excludes a rise of $80 million in a re-valued property portfolio.

Taking into account all operations and property, total profit rose to $344.28 million, compared to $274.29 million for the same period last year.

Harvey Norman also announced they planned to open 15 new stores in the coming six months. The group opened three new Harvey Norman stores in the previous half, as well as one Domayne and one Joyce Mayne store. Eight overseas stores also opened for business, including two Ireland stores, three New Zealand stores and three stores in Malaysia. Four smaller regional Harvey Norman stores shut their doors, however.

Despite the profit increase, shares in Harvey Norman were down in morning trading.