Associated British Foods – the owner of British Sugar – has announced that it maintained strong financial performance in the last financial year, despite a worsening economic situation and higher costs.

Its results for year-ended 13 September 2008 showed revenue was up 21% on last year to £8.2bn and adjusted pre-tax profits up 3% to £632m. Operating profit of £664m was about 7% up on 2007, although would have been 18% higher if the results of businesses affected by EU sugar regime changes were excluded.

Grocery, agriculture and Primark all delivered strong sales and profit growth, ABF chief executive, George Weston, said. “While faced with a general economic downturn, we remain committed to the group’s expansion and development, most notably in sugar and Primark.”

ABF chairman Martin Adamson said that there were particular expansion plans for the sugar business in northeast China where a major phased development programme would take place over the next few years.

“In Europe the transition to the new EU sugar regime is largely over and there is now the prospect of reasonable equilibrium in a market where consumption will exceed domestic production,” he said.

Mr Adamson also said the joint venture with BP and DuPont had started construction of the bioethanol plant in Hull and was on schedule for commissioning in 2010.

Financial summary:
• Group revenue up 21% to £8.2bn
• Adjusted operating profit up 7% to £664m*
• Adjusted profit before tax up 3% to £632m**
• Adjusted earnings per share up 4% to 54.9p**
• Dividends per share up 4% to 20.25p
• Net investment in capital expenditure and acquisitions of £710m
• Net debt of £791m Operating profit level at £554m, profit before tax up 4% to £527m and basic earnings per share down 3% to 45.2p