Macquarie Initiates Coverage on Associated British Foods plc (ABF)

Primark

The company said it expects "progress" in its grocery and ingredients businesses, whose brands include Twinings, Ovaltine, Kingsmill bread, Jordans, Dorset Cereals, Patak's and Blue Dragon.

Primark sales rose 19% year-on-year and climbed 12% at constant currency, but the company warned the unit's operating margin tightened to 10.4% from 11.6% because of the strength of the U.S. dollar on input costs.

The company that owns Primark reported a more than 20 per cent surge in profit for its most recent financial year, largely thanks to strong earnings at the low-priced fashion chain.

Commenting on the likely impact of Brexit on ABF's performance, Weston said that the group was concerned over the risk of "abrupt changes" to customs procedures.

As of 09:22 GMT, AB Foods' share price had lost 3.50 percent to 3,226.00p, underperforming the broader United Kingdom market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index now standing 0.02 percent lower at 7,561.10 points. The sugar business delivered strong profits growth following recent structural changes and recovering sugar prices during the period.

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The company said trading at Primark had been "excellent", particularly over the summer. "All the while cost cuts at its foods and bakery businesses helped deliver very strong results". Having taken full ownership of Illovo Sugar a year ago has also proved to be a positive step, AB Food said, with an increase in profit from an acceleration of its commercial development and performance improvement. Revenues at ABF's sugar business, AB Sugar, rose 21% to £2.2bn.

This year's figures also received a big boost from currency translation effects that would not be repeated in the next financial year, he said. Investors should acknowledge that management described this as a successful year following a few years of high capital investments.

Despite the upbeat results, AB Foods cautioned that higher volumes and lower costs in its sugar business will only partially mitigate the effect of much lower European Union prices going forward.

Primarks full-year results brought a boost for its parent company, Associated British Foods (AB Foods), which posted a 22 per cent leap in annual operating profit to £1.36 billion.

But it said overall full-year margins would be flat on the past year and it added it expects to make further "progress" in earnings for the year to September 2018.

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