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AB Foods says Primark will increase profits despite bigger lockdown losses

Trading across the grocery, sugar, ingredients and agriculture divisions has also been ahead of both last year and market expectations

Associated British Foods PLC -
People queue outside Primark in Brussels

Associated British Foods PLC (LON:ABF) has said it still expects to make more sales and profits from clothing chain Primark this year than last, even though the estimated losses from the autumn’s coronavirus lockdowns has increased to £430mln.

Trading across the grocery, sugar, ingredients and agriculture divisions in the first 10 weeks of the FTSE 100 conglomerate’s financial year has also been ahead of both last year and market expectations, chairman Michael McLintock said in a statement ahead of the group's annual shareholder meeting today.

Almost all the fast-fashion chain’s shops in England, the Republic of Ireland, France and Belgium were allowed to reopen in the past week, though 34, or 7% of the total retail space, remains temporarily closed, compared to a peak of 62% in November.

But the group said this recent cash burn, up from the £375mln estimate given early last month, will not prevent Primark from increasing sales and profit in the year to next September as it currently is operating extended opening hours and has opened two stores in the US and Spain and a first in Rome.

With the new openings bring the total estate to 389 stores and 16.5mln square feet (sq ft) of retail selling space, up from 16.2mln sq ft of space at its September 12 year-end and 15.6mln sq ft a year earlier, McLintock said sales in the stores this week have been “very strong”.

“Following the UK's exit from the EU, our businesses have completed all practical preparations for the end of the transition period this month and contingency plans are in place should our businesses experience some disruption at that time,” he added in the AGM statement.

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