ABF's pre-tax profit was down 3 per cent to£479 million, however group sales were up 9 per cent to£5.62 billion on the back of Primark's strong trading. Like-for-like sales at the chain increased by 9 per cent and were particularly strong in the second half.
Associated British Foods chairman Martin Adamson said that the performance of Primark was an outstanding feature of the results, despite the fiercely competitive clothing market. 'Primark achieved substantial like-for-like sales growth and, with the addition of some new space, grew sales by 17 per cent and operating profit by 30 per cent,' he said.
ABF chief executive George Weston added: 'These strong results are the consequence of the success of Primark, good progress in most of our other existing businesses and satisfactory contributions from recent acquisitions.'
Today's results follow a ruinous blaze at Primark's key UK warehouse on November 1. The group said of the fire: 'The management team responded well. The business in Ireland was unaffected.' ABF expects to increase Primark's selling space by 60 per cent from the 2.5 million sq ft that it has to more than 4 million sq ft by 2007.
The group employs 42,000 people across 41 countries and is present in a variety of markets, including grocery, retail and animal foods.