Associated British Foods

(ABF) has posted a 5% rise in profits to £393m (US$574m) over the last financial year; a growth rate the company argues represents “outstanding performance” against the cautionary warning issued by chairman Harry Bailey in April.

ABF’s financial report, to the year end on 15 September, also revealed a slight increase in revenue to £4.43bn and a 7% increase in earnings per share, to 35.4p. A total dividend of 11.8p has been proposed, a figure up 5%.

Following on from Bailey’s full year results warning, ABF’s statement noted that the results were “excellent” in the light of a number of adverse factors, including poor weather conditions, swine fever, sugar quota cuts, foot-and-mouth disease and high energy costs.

As the largest consumer of UK agricultural products, ABF is behind market leading brands such as Kingsmill, Twinings, Silver Spoon and Ryvita. Among its subsidiary businesses are British Sugar, which saw the closure of three factories during the last year, and Australian firm George Weston Foods, which was lambasted for an “unacceptable” performance.

For the year ahead, ABF anticipates lower consumer confidence after the 11 September attacks, and also listed challenges such as the ongoing foot and mouth crisis and significantly lower UK sugar beet harvests.

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