'Record-Breaking' Primark Lifts Associated British Foods Over Christmas

The bargain fashion chain helped to increase revenue for its owner Associated British Foods by 4 per cent

The bargain fashion chain helped to increase revenue for its owner Associated British Foods by 4 per cent Toby Melville  Reuters

In the first half, the company expects operating margins to be close to those in the same period previous year with better buying virtually offsetting the adverse effect of the weaker sterling/US dollar exchange rate on purchases.

However the retail sales growth across Europe was held back by unseasonably warm weather in October.

For the full year, ABF said it expects a greater reduction in revenue and profit than previously forecast from sugar, mostly due to "significantly" lower European Union sugar prices.

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Group revenue from continuing operations was boosted by the strengthening of the pound against ABF's major trading currencies, other than the euro, for the 16 weeks ended January 6 2018.

Total sales from at ABF, which also owns grocery brands including Kingsmill and Ryvita, a sugar processing arm, and an agricultural business, were up 4pc.

United Kingdom sales were reportedly strong during the period, thanks to a ramping up of retail space. Sales rose by 9 percent at actual exchange rates.

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Since the company's financial year end, it retail selling space has increased by 300,000 sq. ft. and at 6 January, the company had 350 stores trading from 14.2 million sq ft, which compared to 13.1 million sq ft a year ago. Grocery sales climbed 1pc, thanks to "good sales growth" from Ovaltine and Twinings. The company said that it expects 2017 earnings will benefit from a non-underlying one-off non-cash credit from the revaluation of USA deferred tax liabilities.

Associated British Foods on Thursday said that group revenue for the four-month period had increased by 4 per cent at constant currency rates and by 3 per cent at actual rates.

The US tax reform is expected to reduce the group's effective tax rate for the year by 100 basis points while lower interest rates on loans in Zambia and higher rates on US dollar and sterling deposits are projected to cut expenses.

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Liberum repeated a "buy" rating and target price of 3,500p, saying: "ABF offers compelling exposure to secular growth trends in retail over the next 5-10 years over which we estimate Primark can lift sales and profits by almost 75%".

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