• Group profit before tax rose 26.1% to GBP452m
  • Revenue increased 10% to GBP6.3bn
  • Primark sales grew 24% and were up 7% on a like-for-like basis

Primark owner Associated British Food (ABF) has said the value clothing retailer drove the group's better than expected performance during the first half of this year.

The company today (23 April) reported a 26.1% rise in profit before tax rose to reach GBP452m (US$688.5m) over the six months ended 2 March. Group revenue increased 10% to GBP6.3bn.

The company said Primark recorded an "exceptionally strong" performance, with sales growing 24%, and rising 7% on a like-for-like basis. Operating profit also grew on the back of lower cotton prices, a weaker US dollar and lower markdowns due to better trading.

Trading over the Christmas period was good, but has been weaker during the prolonged cold weather since the new year, the company said.

"The Primark success story continues," noted chairman Charles Sinclair.

"Trading in the period was very strong, the profit margin was much improved, customers in continental Europe have taken enthusiastically to the Primark brand and there is very real momentum in the addition of selling space. Encouraged by this success, capital investment will continue."

Over the first-half, the company opened 15 new stores, including six in Spain and four in the UK. However, the pace of store openings will not continue for the remainder of the year.

Commenting on the results, Conlumino analyst Neil Saunders said: "Although this trading period comes against a softer comparative from the previous year (thanks mostly to an unseasonably warm autumn) the stellar numbers underline the continued strong appeal of Primark's offer.

"Trading over the Christmas period was particularly strong, although the unseasonably cold weather has dampened the growth rate slightly during the early months of this year. Nevertheless, the LFL and overall growth are both well above overall market growth indicating that Primark continues to take significant levels of share."