Associated British Foods, the maker of Kingsmill bread and Twinings tea, said first half profit rose 9% boosted in part by a full contribution from its malt drink Ovaltine, which it bought in November 2002.

For the six months to February 28, pre-tax profit rose to £223m from £204m, while sales were up to £2.4bn from £2.3bn.

ABF said its UK bakery business improved profit while absorbing substantially higher wheat prices. But noted that its frozen bakery unit had suffered from tough market conditions and operating difficulties.

British Sugar UK had an “exceptionally good campaign with excellent operational efficiency and high yields”, the company said.

Its budget-clothing retailer Primark performed “impressively” with operating profit up19%. ABF said it would be adding new stores over the coming months and believed there was still “substantial scope” to extend its coverage in the UK.