MARKET REPORT: Associated British Foods shares surge as Primark defies High Street gloom

Primark owner Associated British Foods was the Footsie’s top riser – despite releasing a mixed bag of results.

Profits at its sugar division tanked 79 per cent to £29million on the back of lower prices in Europe, though bosses forecast they would rise again this year.

But things were rosier at its grocery business, which includes Ovaltine and Dorset Cereals, where sales grew 2 per cent to £3.5billion in the year to September 14.

Ther world's biggest Primark store (pictured) is in Birmingham

Ther world’s biggest Primark store (pictured) is in Birmingham

And at budget fashion chain Primark, profits rose 8 per cent to £913million on £7.8billion of sales.

Primark has bucked the gloom on the High Street, even though it does not offer online shopping, and ABF said a weaker dollar and tighter stock management offered the biggest boosts last year.

Profits across ABF rose 2 per cent to £1.4billion, while shares surged 5.6 per cent, or 125p, to 2374p.

Ailing challenger lender Metro Bank rallied 12.2 per cent, or 28.8p, to 264p as yet more rumours swirled that it is about to become a takeover target. 

Elsewhere, crackdowns on vaping in the US knocked sales in the Americas at Imperial Brands’ new products division, which sells e-cigarettes.

Sales in the US arm of its ‘next generation products’ business dived 26.5 per cent to £111million.

Overall sales edged up to £31.6billion in the year to September 30, up from £30billion the year before, though pre-tax profits tumbled 7 per cent to £1.69billion. Shares in Imperial, which had already released a profit warning last month, lifted 0.6 per cent, or 10.8p, to 1749.2p.

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In a separate announcement, Imperial said senior independent director Therese Esperdy will take over from Mark Williamson as chairman from January 1. Meanwhile, a leadership change at retailer Topps Tiles sent shares down 1.4 per cent, or 1p, to 72.2p.

Matt Williams, chief executive for 12 years, said he will step down after the annual results on November 29, to be replaced by finance boss Rob Parker.

It was a day of mixed fortunes for mid-cap engineers. Marine specialist James Fisher & Sons floundered after it was the victim of a cyber attack. It was scant on details but said it has launched an investigation and has taken the targeted systems offline. Shares tumbled 5.6 per cent, or 112p, to 1898p.

But Weir Group was on the up despite issuing a warning on profits in its oil and gas division, and revealing it has cut a fifth of its US workforce on the back of difficult trading in America.

Shares in Glasgow-based Weir edged 3.3 per cent higher, up 47.5p, to 1480p, as it pledged to focus its attention on its other businesses.

Metro Bank rallied 12% as yet more rumours swirled that it is about to become a takeover target

Metro Bank rallied 12% as yet more rumours swirled that it is about to become a takeover target

Elsewhere on the FTSE 250, investors were nonplussed by figures from serviced office provider IWG – a British rival to We Work – that showed revenues rose 9.4 per cent to £692million between July and September. Shares in IWG, which added 66 new sites to its portfolio, were almost flat, down 0.03 per cent, or 0.1p, to 395.2p.

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The FTSE 100 closed 0.25 per cent higher, up 18.39 points, to 7388.08, while the FTSE 250 rose 0.22 per cent, or 45.27 points, to 20,294.99.

Mid-cap car part manufacturer TI Fluid Systems rallied after it added Tim Cobbold, who was the chief executive of money printer De La Rue between 2011 and 2014, as the company’s senior independent director on Monday. Shares rose 4.1 per cent, or 8p, to 202p.

Fellow small-capper Gem Diamonds tweaked its full-year guidance after it sold 10 per cent fewer carats of diamonds in the third quarter, becoming the latest miner in the sector to report difficult trading.

The Lesotho-focused miner estimates it will sell between 111,000 and 113,000 carats in 2019, down from previous forecasts of 115,000 to 119,000. But shares rose 2 per cent, or 1.2p, to 62.5p.



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