UK wine retailer Majestic saw pre-tax profits leap 17% to GBP6.5m (US$12.4m) for the first half of the year, as its fine wine sales grew strongly.

Total sales at Majestic were GBP88.3m, compared with GBP80.8m in the first half of 2005, with like-for-like UK sales up 6%.

The company said its fine wine business continued to show good growth, with sales of wines priced at GBP20 and above increasing by 33% on last year.

Orders placed via Majestic's website were up 43%, representing 6.4% of UK retail sales.

Majestic chief executive Tim How (pictured) said: "I am very pleased with our first-half performance and the rate of new store openings. Like for like sales for the five weeks from 26 September to 30 October were up 4.3%."

The company plans to purchase up to 10% of its issued share capital, and start an open market programme to buy back shares up to GBP20m worth of shares in the next few months.