Online fashion retailer Boohoo has said it suffered a "marked" fall in sales last month as the coronavirus crisis struck, but revealed a swift rebound in April as it outshines hard-hit high street rivals.

The group - which also owns brands including PrettyLittleThing and NastyGal - said the recent Covid-19 events overshadowed a "great" financial year, with sales falling sharply year-on-year last month.

The firm stressed it is seeing improved year-on-year growth of group sales during April thanks to a recent bounce-back.

Shares lifted 6% as Boohoo reported a 54% jump in pre-tax profits to £92.2 million for the year to February 29 as sales raced 44% higher.

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On an underlying basis, annual pre-tax profits lifted 42% to £108.3 million.

The group said it was unable to give guidance on the year ahead due to the uncertainty around the pandemic, and flagged the potential for risks around a slump in demand and possible warehouse closures.

John Lyttle, chief executive of Boohoo, said: "Whilst recent events have understandably overshadowed what has been a great year for Boohoo, they have also highlighted its key strengths.

"Although there is near-term uncertainty in the markets that we operate in, the group is underpinned by its incredibly strong balance sheet and is well-placed to leverage its scalable multi-brand platform and to continue to disrupt fashion markets around the world."

Analysts have backed the company to continue to shrug off wider market woes despite the outbreak, with its operations able to continue despite the Government-mandated lockdown which has hammered high street rivals.

The Manchester-based group has announced a series of profit upgrades over the past year as online-only retailers have gone from strength to strength, despite challenges in the wider sector.

Full-year figures showed sales lifted 39%, while its international operations showed an impressive 62% rise in Europe, a 61% hike in the US and a 19% increase around the rest of the world.

Its main Boohoo brand saw sales rise 39% to nearly £601,000, while sales more than doubled at Nasty Gal and rose 37% at PrettyLittleThing.

The group's recently acquired fashion brands Karen Millen, Coast and MissPap put in an encouraging performance, with revenues of £19 million according to the group.

It said the brands are "resurging under new ownership and direction as online-only brands, with their great heritage intact".

Caroline Gulliver, an equity analyst at Jefferies, said Boohoo had "once again exceeded expectations" with its full-year figures.

"Encouragingly, Boohoo has continued to grow sales in March/April as the company has adapted to the Covid-19-impacted environment," she added.

The owner of Crew Clothing is looking to pull its £22.6 million deal to take menswear chain Moss Bros private just over a month after agreeing the takeover.

Shares in Moss Bros sank by 41% at one stage after it said Brigadier Acquisition Company was seeking a ruling from the City Takeover Panel to invoke a condition of its offer to scrap the deal.

It comes after Moss Bros was forced to close all its stores due to the coronavirus lockdown less than two weeks after sealing the deal with Brigadier.

Brigadier is understood to be seeking to use the "material adverse change clause", which can give the buyer the right to walk away from an acquisition before closing if events occur that are detrimental to the target company, but which is thought to be notoriously hard to invoke.

Moss Bros said it believes its suitor does not have grounds under City takeover rules to lapse the offer and pledged to "take all necessary action to make its case".

It added shareholder meetings to approve the deal are still scheduled to be held on April 29.

Early last month, Moss Bros agreed to the sale, sending shares in the suit seller soaring.

Brigadier - which is majority owned by Regiment, which is itself controlled by Menoshi "Michael" Shina, the owner of Crew Clothing - agreed to buy the business for 22p per share.

The board of Moss Bros hailed the deal, saying it represents a 60% premium on the previous day's closing price.

The sale also came after activist investor Gatemore purchased a 10% stake in the company in June.

Since then, the Covid-19 pandemic forced all non-essential retailers in the UK to shut, dealing a hammer blow to the high street.

Colin Porter, chairman of Moss Bros, admitted at the time the deal was announced that "the board is also aware of the risks attached to executing this strategy in the current retail operating environment and as a publicly-listed company".

He said the board believed the offer reflected the fair value of the group "taking account of the risks".

The deal followed widening losses at Moss Bros amid an already tough retail environment.

Insurance giant Hiscox said it expects to pay up to $175 million (£142 million) to settle claims due to restrictions on travel, events and mass gathering in the wake of the pandemic.

The specialist insurer said it was actively settling claims and will face a $150 million (£121.7 million) bill if travel restrictions and social distancing are in place for six months from March.

However, the company said its "core small commercial package policies" do not provide cover for business interruption caused by the Government's coronavirus response.

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