LONDON -- Shares in Associated British Foods (ABF -1.41%) gained more than 8% today to close at 1,999 pence following an "excellent set of interim results" for the 24 weeks ended March 2.
Along with today's share price spike, shareholders will be pleased with the 22% increase in adjusted earnings per share to 41.9 pence, while the net interim dividend was raised 10% to 9.35 pence, due to be paid on July 5.
ABF management stated the interim results "exceeded our expectations at the start of the year," with adjusted pre-tax profit soaring 25% to 452 million pounds, operating profit lifting 20% to 496 million pounds, and group revenue up 10% to 6.3 billion pounds. Cash flow continued to be strong in the first half, which is encouraging for investors tempted by the share.
Chief executive George Weston commented:
This is an excellent set of results with adjusted operating profit up 20%, a stronger cash flow and a year-on-year reduction in net debt. We are committed to the long-term development of our businesses through investment. These results have been achieved through a focus on generating good returns from the investments we have made over recent years.
It will come as no surprise to investors following this stock that the credit for the company's recent success falls largely at the door of its budget retail operation, Primark, which saw strong trading in the period. Additionally, "the profit margin was much improved, customers in continental Europe have taken enthusiastically to the Primark brand and there is very real momentum in the addition of selling space." Management confirmed that capital investment in this division will continue.
Elsewhere, improvement at ABF's grocery division, "a big increase for Agriculture and some stabilization in underlying trading at Ingredients," and a resilient performance by ABF's sugar operations also contributed to the positive results.
Associated British Foods was one of the FTSE 100's best performers last year; a forecast yield of 1.7%, as well the company's threefold increase in share price over the last five years, gave Associated British Foods its name as a growth share favorite.
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