WH Smith, the retail and publishing group, said its high street shops had delivered an unacceptable first half performance and also agreed to let private equity group Permira mull its business over after its £940m bid.

For the six months to February 29 pre-tax profit before exceptionals and goodwill fell to £65m from £91m, while pretax losses increased to £72m.

Group sales edged up to £1.58bn from £1.56bn.