Pri­mark shines amid the high street gloom

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Char­lie Tay­lor-Kroll and Ash­ley Arm­strong

PRI­MARK bucked the down­ward trend on the high street as soar­ing prof­its helped par­ent com­pany As­so­ci­ated Bri­tish Food (ABF) to off­set cur­rency pres­sures and an ail­ing sugar busi­ness.

ABF, which is ma­jor­ity owned by the We­ston fam­ily, said op­er­at­ing prof­its for Pri­mark soared 15pc to £843m for the year end­ing Septem­ber 2018. Sales also rose 6pc to £7.4bn in the same pe­riod. Pri­mark makes up roughly 60pc of ABF’s to­tal profit.

The bud­get fash­ion re­tailer’s rev­enue and profit was boosted by 16 new stores world­wide and bet­ter per­for­mance in the US, where it has changed its ranges to re­flect Amer­i­cans’ pref­er­ence for more ca­sual fash­ion.

Like-for-like sales, which strip out new shops, dipped by 2.1pc as sales in Europe were dented by un­sea­son­able weather. How­ever, like­for-like sales in the UK grew by 1.2pc, de­spite the fash­ion re­tailer hav­ing no on­line store.

Ge­orge We­ston, ABF chief ex­ec­u­tive, said Pri­mark was in­vest­ing more in the UK than any other fash­ion re­tailer, open­ing stores and re­fur­bish­ing its ex­ist­ing 185 shops.

ABF’s gro­cery busi­ness, which in­cludes Oval­tine, Dorset Ce­re­als and Twin­ings, recorded a 15pc sales rise to £1.6bn dur­ing the 12-month pe­riod.

But op­er­at­ing profit at the com­pany’s sugar busi­ness fell by more than half in to £123m. ABF said that dereg­u­la­tion in the EU sugar mar­ket had re­sulted in a sharp de­cline in prices and a global sur­plus.

ABF said statu­tory pre­tax profit for the whole com­pany had fallen 19pc for the year to £1.2bn.

Strip­ping out the sales of its US herbs and spices busi­ness and sugar cane divi­sion in China meant that ad­justed pre-tax prof­its rose by 5pc to £1.3bn in the year. To­tal sales for the year rose 1pc to £15bn.

ABF shares closed up 3.0pc at £24.60.

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