Associated British Foods Falls on Analyst Downgrades


LONDON -- Shares in Associated British Foods dropped off today as the market opened, as Evolution Securities downgraded the company to an "underperform" rating.

The investment banking firm isn't the only one that has concerns over ABF recently. In a research note to investors at the beginning of the month, analysts at Barclays Capital reiterated an "overweight" rating on the diversified international food, ingredients, and retail group; Nomura reiterated a "neutral" rating on ABF's shares in mid-February; while Jefferies Group reaffirmed a "hold" rating late last month.

ABF has had to face some negative headlines over the last month, having to forcibly deny allegations that it is illegally or immorally avoiding paying millions of pounds worth of tax in Zambia. Elsewhere, it has been slated by the charity Oxfam, as it was billed as the least ethical food and drinks company, with its supply chain slammed, in particular, for a lack of transparency.

Associated British Foods fell 21p, or 1%, to 1,845p after impressive growth so far in 2013 that had seen the multinational company's share price put on over 300p, boosted by its Primark brand seeing "exceptionally strong" sales.

ABF was one of the FTSE 100's best performers last year; a forecast yield of 1.7%, as well the company's three-fold increase in share price over the last five years, gave Associated British Foods its name as a growth share favourite.

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