Stanley Gibbons is looking to strike what it describes as a “transformational” deal, as it seeks to harness growing international demand for stamps, autographs and memorabilia.

The 150-year-old company, which alongside stamps now sells objects such as the corset worn by Marilyn Monroe in the film Some Like it Hot, said it was looking at potential “material” acquisitions, although it is not currently in talks.

Paul Fraser, chairman said: ”We are doing a lot of sales in America so it makes sense to go that step further either by making an acquisition or setting up an office there”. It is also aiming to strengthen its hand in Asia.

The company, which on Friday announced a 33 per cent rise in annual profits said bolstering its international presence was a priority as it struggles to meet demand. While collectors and investors were regularly competing to acquire the same material, its challenge had been to source sufficient levels of high quality rare stamps to meet demand.

The increasing popularity of autographs and memorabilia have helped alleviate some of this pressure. Sales of these items more than doubled to £1.66m, about 10 per cent of overall sales.

Stanley Gibbons said: “Our share of the international stamp market continues to grow, but still remains below 0.5 per cent, giving us a huge opportunity to play for, in all areas of our business.” Sales from outside the UK accounted for 46 per cent of its total in 2006 compared with 42 per cent in 2005,” it said.

Jonathan Wright, analyst with house broker Seymour Pierce, said: “The point is they’re seeing areas of huge demand and they want to be in a position to capitalise on this against a background of growing interest in collectibles as a form of alternative investment.”

The Aim-listed company, which was started by its eponymous founder in 1856 after he bought a sack of rare triangular Cape stamps from two sailors, on Friday reported pre-tax profits of £3.75m. Sales grew by 22 per cent to £16.7m.

Operating profits for the year ended December 31 rose 31 per cent to £3.57m.

The board is recommending a final dividend of 2.5p per share, bringing the total for the year to 4p, a rise of 33 per cent.

Earnings per share were 11.07p, up 22.6 per cent.

The shares rose 2.4 per cent at 189p in early afternoon trade in London.

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