Associated British Foods Reports Revenue Rise

LONDON (AP) -- Associated British Foods PLC on Thursday reported a 21 percent rise in revenue in late 2008 from the same period last year, citing strong sales from retailer Primark.

Sales at the discount fashion retailer were strong over the holiday period and rose 18 percent in the 16 weeks to Jan. 3, 2009, the company said in a statement. Same-store sales were "very good," but the company did not specify a figure. The company has 187 Primark stores.

Sugar revenues rose by 20 percent in the same 16-week period compared with 2007 sales, primarily owing to a good performance by the company's British Sugar division. There were, however, concerns about performance in its Chinese operations.

"Profitability in China will be significantly reduced by much weaker sugar prices resulting from oversupply in the domestic market. The beet sugar business in the north east has been further affected by a smaller crop and lower sugar extraction," the statement said.

In December, the company announced it had acquired Azucarera Ebro, Spain and Portugal's leading sugar producer, for 385 million euros ($507 million). The company said that the purchase - expected to receive regulatory approval in the spring - would result in a small operating loss in the current financial year. It added the acquisition would enhance earnings next year, but did not provide any figures.

Shares in the company rose by about 1.5 percent to 685 pence on the London Stock Exchange.

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