Primark drives AB Foods profit rise

LONDON, April 23 Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:12am EDT

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - Associated British Foods beat forecasts with a 20 percent rise in first half profit, with a stellar performance from its Primark clothing chain and a recovery in its grocery division more than offsetting lower earnings from sugar.

The firm, said on Tuesday it made underlying operating profit of 496 million pounds ($756 million) in the six months to March 2.

That compared to analysts' average forecast of 485 million pounds and was up from 412 million pounds in the 2011-12 half year. Revenue increased 10 percent to 6.33 billion pounds.

Underlying earnings per share rose 22 percent to 41.9 pence and the firm is paying an interim dividend of 9.35 pence, up 10 percent.

AB Foods said it expected to make "good progress" in its full year.