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3 FTSE Shares Hitting New Highs: Associated British Foods plc, Babcock International Group PLC and Booker Group Plc

The latest economic-stimulus panic seems to be subsiding yet again, as the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE) slowly recovers from Wednesday’s 97-point fall. Yesterday the index of top UK shares regained 36 points to close at 6,666, and so far today it’s up another 23 to 6,688 — only 20 points down on the week so far and still in with a chance of turning it into a winning week.

The FTSE is now only 188 points short of that 13-year record of 6,876 set in May, but which companies are already setting new records? Here are three that are scaling the heights.

Associated British Foods

Shares in Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF) have soared 65% over the past 12 months to a record close of 2,311p yesterday, having hit 2,320p during the day — the price is down a little today to 2,229p.

A large part of the success has had nothing to do with food, coming from subsidiary Primark’s great performance. In fact, although the various food divisions did well, chief executive George Weston talked of “a remarkable year for Primark” in this year’s final results release, with the clothing chain enjoying a 22% rise in revenue and a 44% jump in adjusted operating profit.

Growth comes at a price, and the shares are now on a forward P/E based on 2014 forecasts of nearly 23.

Babcock International

Babcock International Group (LSE: BAB) shares closed on a 52-week high of 1,308p yesterday, and are up a fraction on that to 1,310p today. That takes the shares up 35% over 12 months, after the engineering support firm reported strong first-half growth on 12 November.

With revenue up 9% to £1.7bn, underlying pre-tax profit rose 17% to £141.7m and underlying earnings per share (EPS) gained 13% to 31.6p.

Chief executive Peter Rogers said that “...we are well placed to generate further growth this year and in the longer-term future“.

Booker Group

Booker Group (LSE: BOK) shares have been rising strongly since the food wholesaler’s first-half results in October, and they reached a 52-week high this morning of 158.8p to climb almost 60% over 12 months.

Sales for 2013 gained 16.5% with pre-tax profit up 17% and EPS up 9%, leading to an 18% boost to the first-half dividend.

There’s more of the same forecast too, with double-digit gains in EPS due for this year and next. But that does put the shares on a forward P/E of a rather high 29.

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> Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article.