By James Wells

MELBOURNE: Westpac Banking Corporation, through its BT Funds Management and BT Investment Management divisions, has increased its shareholding in Narta retailer Clive Peeters to over five per cent.

In documentation submitted to the Australian Stock Exchange, Westpac increased its shareholding in the business to 6,464,373 shares or 5.09 per cent of the company.

Westpac has joined K2 Asset Management as a significant shareholder in the company, after K2 purchased an additional 1,692,357 shares on 23 March to hold 9,544,946 shares or 7.52 per cent of the 127 million shares in the company.

Since purchasing 79,000 shares on 12 January on behalf of its clients, BT Investment Management bought 198,620 shares from 7 March to 15 March and another 117,680 on 28 March. On 18 and 19 April, BT Investment Management bought an additional 510,000 shares.

Another Westpac division, BT Funds Management, bought 280,720 shares between 4 March and 28 March 2006.
For the six months to 31 December 2005, the company reported a 68 per cent increase in operating profit to $5.9 million including a three month contribution from its Rick Hart stores in Western Australia and Michael King store in Victoria.

Comparable store sales growth for the six months to December 31, 2005, was -2.8 per cent for Clive Peeters stores and 15.5 per cent for Rick Hart stores, with overall growth for the group of 2.1 per cent.

Clive Peeters will be opening three stores in July within premises previously branded Myer Megamart. The stores located in Auburn and Casula in Sydney as well as another store in the central business district of Perth will join other new stores located in Hobart and its first regional store at Mildura in Victoria.