Food and retail group Associated British Foods expects sales and profit growth this year as its discount fashion retailer Primark recovers and aided by strong growth at its sugar business after reporting a small rise of profits.

The company, which sells Silver Spoon sugar and Twining tea as well as running Primark, said it expects growth in sales and adjusted operating profit in the coming year, with the profit improvement weighted towards its second half.

Its 223-strong Primark chain suffered from spiralling cotton costs and price discounting, but new store openings and falling cotton prices are set to help the star-performing retailer bounce back from its worst performance for a decade.

Chief Executive George Weston warned that growth in developed economies was subdued and will remain so in the medium term, although on a brighter note he said commodity costs appear to be subsiding and will benefit Primark in 2012.

The London-based group reported a 2 percent rise in earnings per share to 74.0 pence for its year to September 17, beating a Reuters SmartEstimate of 72.4 pence. The previous year, group earnings grew 25 percent.

Primark decided not to pass on the bulk of the hike in cotton costs to consumers to maintain its price edge and so accepted a fall in margins, which were further pared back by an early summer sales season on Britain's high streets.

The chain, which makes around a third of group earnings, saw its annual profit slip 8 percent to 309 million pounds, while like-like-sales rose 3 percent and operating margins fell to 10.2 percent from 12.5 percent previously.

Its sugar business saw profit up 31 percent to 315 million pounds, helped by high world sugar prices and driven in particularly by strong performance in Spain and China, and only tempered by severe winter weather which hit output.

The group's shares, 55 percent owned by the family of CEO Weston, have outperformed the FTSE 100 index <.FTSE> by 2 percent this year. They closed on Monday at 1,112 pence.

(Editing by David Holmes)