Budget retail chain Primark's increasing popularity has helped boost its parent company Associated British Foods' half-year profits.

Primark's first-half sales rose 12 per cent to £448 million, while same-stores grew 6 per cent. Primark's operating profits rose 18 per cent to £59m in the first half.

The company attributed the sound results to a 5 per cent price deflation as well as improved purchasing.

Associated British Foods' total half-year profits before tax rose by 15 per cent to £252m.

The group plans new Primark stores in Leeds, Kingston, Dundalk, Mullingar, Leicester, Bromley, Hull and Cardiff by the end of 2005.

It has also said that it is prepared to use its £464m cash assets to broaden its business through acquisitions, with the Littlewoods retail chain as a possible purchase.

Clothing chain Monsoon this week announced it was taking Primark to court for allegedly copying six of its garment designs and wants £200,000 damage compensation from the company as well as a promise not to repeat its infringement.