Food, ingredients and fashion conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF) adds 2.62% at £27.41 on a full-year earnings beat. With lower sugar prices crimping group profits, it is budget clothing chain Primark which proves the star performer again, potentially reigniting a debate over the retail unit's potential as a demerger candidate.
You can drill down into the finer details of the £21.2 billion cap's annual numbers here. In short, the Kingsmill-to-Twinings Ovaltine brand owner's earnings for the 52 weeks ending 13 September came in slightly ahead of expectations, up 6% to 104.1p from a 2% rise in adjusted taxable profits to £1.105 billion.
More than offsetting a profits slump at its AB Sugar unit was the profits growth generated across ABF's grocery, agriculture, ingredients and retail divisions, the latter the jewel in the crown. In fact, CEO George Weston lauded 'another magnificent year' for Primark, where constant currency profits soared 30% to £662 million and sales grew 17% to within a fraction of £5 billion.
Primark's relentless growth, not even hindered by the warm weather bemoaned by the likes of Next (NXT), N Brown (BWNG) and SuperGroup (SGP), reflects a combination of an increase in retail selling space, like-for-like sales growth of 4% and higher sales densities in new stores. Its discount fashions have seen the retailer become a firm favourite with shoppers both at home and abroad, where its cheap fashion retail empire continues to expand.
Last year, Primark successfully entered the French market, building on its existing presence in the UK, Iberia, Germany, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland. Its successful launch in France augurs well for its next new market, the north east of the US, where a first store is set to open in Boston next year and there's a ten store target set by the end of 2016.
ABF's strategy is to stoke interest in the Primark brand across the pond, where it has signed a deal with US retailer Sears (SHLD:NDQ) to lease mall space for stores. Bulls argue the retailer's value focus should go down a treat across the pond, though even for barnstorming Primark, successful expansion without hiccups will be no mean feat, given the US' reputation as a graveyard for UK shopkeepers.