AB Foods chief dismisses speculation about divesting Primark

‘It will not happen on my watch,’ says John Bason

Associated British Foods has no plans to separate its high-flying Primark discount fashion chain from its grocery and struggling sugar businesses, despite their divergent performances and lack of overlap, the firm said yesterday.

With double-digit percentage sales growth at Primark contrasting with big falls in revenue from sugar, perennial speculation of a possible break-up has resurfaced among traders and the media.

'Not on my watch'
But long-serving finance chief John Bason ruled it out. "It will not happen on my watch," he said yesterday. "What I don't get from anybody is that Primark is any less of a retailer because of ownership by ABF. I think if anything Primark is the differentiated retailer because of ABF, long may that continue," said Mr Bason, finance director since 1999.

He said Primark – known in Dublin where it was founded by Arthur Ryan as Penneys – had thrived being part of ABF. "There's so much more to do: you'd be mad to change that wouldn't you?"


Mr Bason was speaking after ABF, whose grocery brands include Silver Spoon sugar and Twinings tea, published a trading update for its fiscal first half to March 1st, and kept its earnings guidance for the 2013-14 year.

Shares in the firm, which are 55 per cent owned by the family of chief executive George Weston, have risen 63 per cent over the last year, hitting a record high of 3,001 pence on Friday.

Standout performer
That has largely been thanks to Primark, the standout performer in Britain's clothing sector in recent years, with its low prices and quick adoption of fashion trends pulling in cost-conscious customers. – (Reuters)