Revenue up at Penney's owner on record sales

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

The retailer's operating margins in the first half of AB Foods' financial 2018 are expected to be close to those reached at the same period past year, with purchasing control offsetting the adverse effect of a weaker pound, said AB Goods.

The owner Primark has posted a rise in group revenue for the 16 weeks to 6 January, particularly helped by a strong performance at the budget fashion retail chain.

Ingredients sales fell 1%, mainly due to foreign exchange headwinds, but AB Foods sees margins improving in the full year.

Primark sales in the 16-week period rose 9% on the previous year with "strong" like-for-like sales in the United Kingdom as it increased its market share. Primark achieved record sales in the week before Christmas.

Operating margins in the first half are expected to be broadly unchanged from a year ago as tightly managed stock offset the impact of a weaker sterling against the dollar.

However, the banner's sales in Europe were impacted by warm autumn weather, the company said.

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.

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Primark opened five stores over the 16-week period and added 1.1 million sq ft of space to its estate throughout the year, bringing its total estate to 350 stores and 14.2 million sq ft.

AB Sugar's revenue fell 13% at actual exchange rates and 12% in constant currency.

Elsewhere in the AB Foods conglomerate, the company reported good recent sales growth for its Twinings and Ovaltine brands, as well as stronger volumes at its Kingsmill and Allinson bakeries business.

Elsewhere there was a 13pc decline in revenue from its sugar division, driven by significantly lower European Union sugar prices, which adversely affected the company's United Kingdom and Spanish businesses.

The company's effective tax rate for financial 2018 is expected to fall by 100 basis points, following the recent USA tax reforms.

Meanwhile the group said that retail trading in the USA "has continued to make progress".