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Britain's M&S profit down 17% on weak clothing sales

LONDON, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Britain's Marks & Spencer reported a 17% drop in first half profit, dragged down by falling clothing sales, illustrating the bumpy path of its latest attempt at a turnaround after over a decade of false dawns.

The 135-year old M&S, one of the best known names in British retail, said on Wednesday it made a pretax profit before one-off items of 176.5 million pounds ($227.3 million) in the six months to Sept. 28. That was in line with analysts' average forecast but down from 213.0 million pounds made in the same period last year.

First-half clothing and home like-for-like sales fell 5.5%, though food sales did increase 0.9% on the same basis.

M&S said that while it forecast some improvement in trading in the second half, market conditions remain challenging. ($1 = 0.7765 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle)