Associated British Foods has today raised its forecast for full-year results following a strong performance by bargain fashion retailer Primark. 

A sharp fall in the value of sterling since last year's Brexit vote, combined with below-inflation pay increases, has eaten into household budgets in Britain, forcing shoppers to tighten their belts and become more price-conscious. 

As a result Primark has continued to perform well, with UK like-for-like sales up over 4% during the 2016-17 year and its share of the total UK clothing market up "significantly", the company said in a trading statement. 

AB Foods said Primark's 2016-17 overall sales would be 13% ahead of last year at constant currency, with like-for-like sales up 1%. 

Primark's full-year operating profit margin was forecast to be better than the first half's 10%, ahead of previous guidance. 

The fashion retailer added 1.5 million square feet of selling space in 2016-17 and plans 1.2 million in 2017-18. 

Primark, which trades as Penneys here, accounts for about half of AB Foods' profit. 

The group, which also has major sugar, grocery, agriculture and ingredients businesses, forecast "good" growth in adjusted operating profit and adjusted earnings per share (EPS) for its year to September 16. 

It reported earnings per share of 106.2 pence in 2015-16.

Before today's update, shares in AB Foods, majority owned by the family of chief executive George Weston, had increased 19% this year and hit a 52-week high earlier this month. 

However, they were lower today, reflecting some concern over competition and cost pressures in the UK bread market.  

AB Foods also said it expected to end the year with net cash of £650m versus net debt of £315m in 2015-16.

Some of this cash will be absorbed by the purchase of Acetum, the Italian producer of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, whose brands include Mazzetti, Acetum and Fini. The deal was also announced today. 

AB Foods regards the acquisition as an opportunity to broaden its international presence in speciality foods, developing it alongside its Patak's, Blue Dragon, Jordans and Dorset Cereals businesses. 

The group declined to disclose the acquisition cost. However, analysts said it was about €300m.