Primark enjoys "record Christmas" beating expectations

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Shares in the group, majority owned by the family of Chief Executive George Weston, were down 3 percent at 0945 GMT.

However, it expected sugar production in the European Union during the 2017/18 financial year to be substantially higher than last year, because of high beet yields and increased crop area.

"It's supply and demand.It was a lovely summer and the beet just carried on growing", said Bason.

As well as jitters over the retail outlook, investors have been unable to overlook renewed signs of trading pressure at AB Foods' sugar business. Its sugar business lagged in the four-month period, with revenue from continuing operations down 12 per cent at constant currency rates and 13 per cent behind at actual exchange rates.

Sales at Primark were up by 7 per cent at constant currency rates.

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The UK continued to perform well for the brand with strong like-for-like sales, a consequent increase in share of the total market, and trading which Primark said reflected the breadth of its consumer offering. It also saw record sales in the week before Christmas. The company said that Primark's sales growth across Europe was held back by unseasonably warm weather in October but that trading in the five weeks leading up to Christmas was robust. Primark further said that the company achieved record sales in the week before Christmas, and trading in the U.S. has continued to make progress.

The retailer's operating margins in the first half of AB Foods' financial 2018 are expected to be close to those reached at the same period previous year, with purchasing control offsetting the adverse effect of a weaker pound, said AB Goods.

Prior to Thursday's update analysts average EPS forecast for 2017-18 was 135.6 pence, according to Reuters data, up from 127.1 pence in 2016-17.

However, most analysts regard Primark as well positioned to withstand the pressure on discretionary spending.