// Primark owner AB Foods’ shares plummeted from 1834p per share to 0.01p this morning
// The incident is linked to a “fat finger” error, and shares were suspended for an hour before it came back at 1600p
// Earlier. AB Foods said Primark was forced to close stores in mainland Europe amid the coronavirus outbreak
Shares in the parent company of Primark were suspended for an hour this morning, after it released a bruising report into the effects of coronavirus on its business.
The London Stock Exchange said that trading in AB Foods was halted at about 9am after the company’s shares inexplicably fell by 100 per cent to 0.01p.
Shares are typically suspended when there is a rush of trades in a particular company.
Circuit breakers can come into effect if a stock falls too far, too quickly.
- Primark shuts European stores as coronavirus prompts £190m revenue warning
- Primark owner issues supply warning from coronavirus amid sales growth
Analysts speculated that the spectacular drop from 1834p per share could be because a trader hit the wrong button on their computer, a so-called fat-finger error.
AB Foods and the London Stock Exchange have not yet provided a comment on the glitch.
Whole stock exchanges have been halted in recent weeks as indexes fell too far because of coronavirus fears.
When they started trading again an hour after being suspended, AB Foods’ shares were back at about 1600p, about 12 per cent down.
Earlier in the day AB Foods said Primark had been forced to close stores in mainland Europe accounting for nearly a third of its sales, as governments shut down high streets to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The value fashion retailer’s stores in France, Spain and Austria were expected to make sales of £190 million over the next four weeks.
They represent about 20 per cent of Primark’s selling space around the world.
Governments in the three countries have forced all non-essential stores to close as they try to put a lid on the spread of Covid-19, which has infected thousands.
The World Health Organisation last week declared that Europe had become the new epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
The outbreak has also seen sales falling elsewhere, as people stay away from high street shops. This includes the UK, where Primark makes 41 per cent of its sales.
“We are managing the business appropriately but do not expect to significantly mitigate the effect of the contribution lost from these sales,” AB Foods said.
There was happier news from China. In February Primark had warned that its factories there were closing, which could have a knock-on effect on its supply chain.
However, most of the factories which supply it have now re-opened, the AB Foods confirmed today.
“As a result, supply shortages from that country are now expected to be minimal,” AB Foods said.
The company added: “Our priority continues to be the health and safety of our colleagues, customers and partners.
“Each of our businesses are closely monitoring the current and potential effects of the outbreak on their operations.”
AB Foods said that in the first half of the financial year adjusted operating profit will be ahead of previous expectations, as Primark racked up better margins.
with PA Wires