Primark cemented its position as the UK's second biggest clothing retailer with a 22% surge in profits in the six months to 1 March, parent company Associated British Foods (ABF) said.

Primark's revenues were up 25% to GBP899m (US$1.79bn), with profits reaching GBP111m for the period.

That helped lift ABF group revenues 9% to GBP3.7bn - including other ABF brands like Kingsmill bread and Twinings tea - with total pre-tax profits up 35% to GBP267m.

Hailing the chain's performance as "excellent", ABF chief executive George Weston said Primark had benefited from a substantial increase in selling space, with a large number of former Littlewoods stores reopening.

"We continue to develop a pipeline for new store openings in all of the countries in which we operate, although openings over the next year are likely to be at a slower rate than in 2006 and 2007," said Weston.

Primark's like-for-like sales were up 4% on last year, reflecting Christmas trading revenues ahead of expectations.

Weston added that he was "very encouraged" by the performance of the company's new stores in Spain, which have so far achieved sales densities ahead of the average for UK and Ireland.

Primark, which at the half-year had 173 stores and 5m sq ft of selling space, now has a 10% share of the UK clothing market by volume, placing it in second spot behind Marks & Spencer.