LONDON -- The shares of Dixons Retail (LSE: DXNS) held steady at 26 pence in early trade this morning to cement their position as the second-best performers within the FTSE All-Share index this year.

Dixons' shares started 2012 at 9.8 pence and have therefore delivered a 165% gain to smart investors since the start of the year. Only punters holding the shares of Enterprise Inns have done better within the All-Share.

Today's share-price move came as Dixons announced its half-year results. The electrical retail chain said total underlying sales advanced 4% to 3.3 billion pounds and pre-tax losses narrowed from 25 million pounds to 23 million.

Notably, the firm said "strong" cash generation helped reduce net debt from 143 million pounds to just 10 million pounds. Another encouraging sign was the group's Dixons, Currys, and PC World subsidiaries reporting a collective first-half profit for the first time since 2007.

On the downside, losses continue to grow at the firm's Pixmania website while the entire statement never once mentioned the word "dividend." Dixons has not declared a payout since June 2008.

Sebastian James, Dixons' chief executive, said:

We have made good early progress on our three strategic priorities of driving a sustainable business in a multi-channel world, building on our leading market positions and have started to make some progress in sharing best practices across the Group.

It is increasingly clear in each of our markets that our service-based, multi-channel business model is what customers want. We are outpacing our competitors, and have seen Comet enter administration in the U.K. and Expert exiting the market in Sweden.

Prior to today, City experts had predicted current-year earnings of 1.5 pence per share, and about 2 pence per share for 2013/14. The latter projection puts the shares on a possible P/E of 13, which does not look the greatest of bargains given the company's haphazard performance during the financial crisis.

Still, annual sales are running at about 8 billion pounds, so the current market cap of 1 billion pounds could have some upside were margins to improve. For example, a 3% margin on sales of 8 billion pounds would give earnings of 182 million pounds after tax at 24%. That estimate could put the shares on a potential P/E of less than 6.

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