Next has raised its full-year profit forecast after achieving a rise in fourth-quarter sales ahead of the UK retailer's expectations.
The company expects pre-tax profit between £684m to £700m for the year to January 25th 2014, up 10% and 12.6% respectively on the prior year.
In the Christmas period from November 1st to December 24th, Next Retail sales jumped 7.7%, bringing year to date growth to 1.2%.
Next Directory sales increased 21% in the lead up to Christmas and up 12% in the year to date. Next brand total sales advanced 11.9% during the holiday season and 5% in the year to date.
"The step-up in Christmas trade was mainly down to improvements in our seasonal knitwear, nightwear and gift offer," Next said in its trading update.
"In addition, increased confidence in online deliveries meant that more customers continued to trade with NEXT Directory right up to the weekend before Christmas."
During the year the fashion retailer purchased and cancelled 6.2m Next shares
at a total cost of £296m.
Next said the combination of profit growth, share buybacks and a lower corporation tax rate should result in annual growth in underlying earnings per share of between 21% and 24%.
However, the firm warned that it is unlikely that the strength shown in the fourth quarter will continue through the first half of the financial year.
The economy is expected to steadily improve but Next said, "the problem of little or no growth in real earnings looks set to persist for some time, and we cannot see any reason to expect a significant increase in total consumer spending in the year ahead".
"We are also wary that any return to significant economic growth is likely to result in rising interest rates which, in turn, is likely to moderate spending of those with mortgages."
In the year ahead, Next expects to generate and return a further £300m of surplus cash to shareholders which will be returned either through further quarterly special dividends or buybacks, depending on the share price.
A special dividend of 50p per share will be paid on February 3rd to those members on the company's register at the close of business on January 17th.
United Arab Emirates healthcare provider NMC Health said its results for 2013 were expected to be in line with expectations, with growth seen in both its healthcare and distribution divisions throughout the 12-month period.
The group's net debt position, capital expenditure and operational cash flow were all also anticipated to be in line with management expectations.
Chief Executive Officer Dr B R Shetty said: "I am pleased with NMC's growth over the past year in both our healthcare and distribution divisions. Management will continue to work towards increased efficiencies and operational gearing in existing operations and a smooth introduction of new assets.
"Management and the team at NMC have worked very hard since the initial public offering to deliver this organic expansion programme. Our strategy has been reinforced by the strong population and economic growth seen in the UAE over the past year and the recent adoption of mandatory healthcare insurance in Dubai. Consequently, I look forward to a rewarding 2014 for NMC and its shareholders."
The company also said that it was happy with how the Mussafah Day Patient Centre, which opened in July last year, was progressing and said it was pleased with the level of patient flow.
"The opening of our Mussafah Day Patient Centre in July 2013 was the first in a string of new near-term additions to our healthcare portfolio in the UAE. In 2014 we will see the opening of two hospitals and a medical centre, followed by the opening of our largest hospital in the first half of 2015," Shetty added.