Blog: Dean BestABF boss Weston checks in from China

Dean Best | 9 November 2010

George Weston, chief executive of UK-based food group Associated British Foods, did not appear in front of analysts when the company published its full-year results today (9 November). Instead, he called in from China, where he was part of the UK trade delegation to the fast-growing economy.

The ABF boss accompanied UK business leaders, government ministers and the Prime Minister himself on a visit to improve trade links with the economic superpower.

As Chris Brook-Carter discussed on these pages today, the pressure for bilateral trade with the likes of China and India has intensified since the start of the economic downturn and the UK is keen to capture some of each market's growing middle-class wealth.

For its part, ABF is looking to bolster its food ingredients and retail business in China, where it already has a substantial presence.

ABF's annual results included details of the growth the company is already seeing in China - the group's sugar operations in China had enjoyed a bumper 12 months - and Weston said the trip was a "rare opportunity" to accompany the UK Prime Minister to such an important market. "We get all sorts of access to people we wouldn't normally see," he said.

The company is planning further investment in China in the next 12 months with, for example, a new yeast extracts plant in the northern city of Harbin in the final stages of commissioning.

A lot of the business headlines will focus on ABF's grocery business in the UK and, of course, its Primark clothing arm but markets like China are becoming increasingly important to the company.


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