Waterford Wedgwood today reported a 24% jump in yearly pre-tax profits to 85.5 million euros, up from 68.7 million euros the year before. Total sales amounted to 1.084.4 million euros - the best ever, according to the company.

The crystal, chinaware and luxury goods firm said that trading was ahead of 2000 levels and proposed an interim dividend of 3.06 cents - a 15% increase.

The crystal side of the business reported a sales hike of 10%, which pushed operating profit up by 15% to 65.8 million euros. This growth was fuelled by sales of new products and line extensions.

New product ranges also boosted sales and profits in the ceramics division of the group. The acquisition of German porcelain brand Hutschenreuther enhanced the European business, the company said. Sales in the ceramics rose by 21% to 481.4 million euros with operating profit up 25% to 18.7 million.

Waterford's cooking and other product ranges also saw strong H1 growth. The company said in a statement that all its brands had gained market share in key markets over the year, including markets in the US and Japan. It also reported that sales were up in all overseas markets.

Chairman Tony O'Reilly said that despite indications of the slowdown in the US economy, Waterford Wedgwood continued to trade above 2000 levels. 'We will continue further to develop and contemporise our brands while growing the group through selective acquisition', he added.

Waterford Wedgwood shares had fallen by over 4% this afternoon - they were trading at 1.30 euros, down six cents, by 3.30pm.