By Matt Ayres

Primark has reported steady growth as it gears up for expansion into the US, although its performance has failed to prevent a fall in profits at its owner, AB Foods.

Total sales at the discount clothing retailer rose 11% in the six months to February, with operating profits rising 8% to £322m.

Meanwhile, group pre-tax profits at AB Foods halved to £213m after the company's sugar business was hit by weak prices.

The company warned the strength of the pound could hit full-year results, with sterling's strength against many other currencies potentially leading to a "modest decline" in full-year adjusted earnings per share.

Rising costs due to the stronger dollar is another issue concerning the retailer as it prepares to take its operations stateside. Primark's first American outlet is expected to open in Boston this year.