Associated British Foods, the maker of Twinings tea, Silver Spoon sugar and Kingsmill has reported a 16% rise on half-year profits thanks to its programme of acquisitions and solid organic growth.

The group, which also owns Primark, said that pre-tax profits rose to from 268 million for the 24 weeks to March 5, compared 232 the previous year.

Its grocery business saw sales rise 6.5% to £1.24bn.

The group has also emerged as a frontrunner to launch a bid for the 119-strong Littlewoods store chain.