LONDON - Currys, the electrical retailing chain owned by Dixons Group, is selling a flat-screen TV every 15 seconds as the British public prepares for the World Cup.

The boom in TV sales led Dixons to tell the City yesterday to raise its profit forecasts for the group.

Shares in Britain's biggest electrical retailer soared 7 per cent after it said an improved second half, in the main due to strong demand for the latest televisions but also thanks to strong sales of MP3 players, iPods and laptops, would help its annual results beat City expectations.

Dixons, which makes two-thirds of its profits in Britain through chains such as Dixons and Currys, said second-half flat-screen television sales were up by more than 100 per cent.

Dixons chief executive John Clare said: "Currys is selling one flat-screen TV every 15 seconds. I expect this rate to rise as we get closer to the World Cup."

Further into the future, he predicted that the boom in the British television market would be supported by the switch-off of the analogue signal, which starts in 2008.

But Clare suggested that a slowdown in the growth rate would be inevitable after the World Cup, which starts on June 9 in Germany.

Total sales in Dixon's electricals division were up 11 per cent in the second half and up 9 per cent for the year as a whole.

Overall, the group reported a 4 per cent rise in second-half like-for-like sales and told the City to expect underlying profits of between £312 million ($930 million) and £318 million for the year ending April 29, 2006.

Dixons shares closed at the top of the FTSE 100 leaderboard, up 13.5p at 207.75p. This is the highest close for the stock since 2002, when the last World Cup was held.

Despite upbeat comments about solid demand for the latest gadgets, Clare warned that the British consumer remains in a "fragile" state.

"My feeling is that the UK is still fairly fragile. There's still some nervousness about tax increases, council tax especially, and unemployment."

DSG, which launched a major drive into internet retailing last month, said it had enjoyed a significant jump in online sales, with existing e-commerce operations growing at about 50 per cent a year.

The Link, the group's chain of mobile phone shops, continued to underperform as growing direct sales by network operators and cheap competition from supermarkets took their toll.

Second-half like-for-like sales dropped 21 per cent.

- INDEPENDENT