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Wolseley profits jump as US growth offsets weak Europe

Wolseley, the builders merchant and economic bellwether, has reported a 28pc rise in first-half profit as continued strong growth in the United States offset weakness in Europe.

The company, which owns Plumb Center and Bathstore in the UK and Ferguson in the US, said pre-tax profits in the six months to the end of January rose to £250m, up from £195m in the same period the previous year.

Sales rose 5pc to £6.84bn, with those at the US business, which represent around 45pc of revenue, rising 9pc.

The UK, which represents 15pc of sales, declined 3pc, while growth across Europe was mixed, with countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland hampering growth elsewhere.

Ian Meakins, the chief executive, said: "Wolseley has delivered another decent performance, despite challenging economic conditions in Europe ...

"We will continue to pursue operating efficiencies and remain focused on improving customer service, gaining market share and protecting our gross margins. We will continue to invest selectively in the business where we can exploit growth opportunities and generate good returns."

He said the Wolseley had raised the interim dividend by 33pc to 20p a share to reflect its "confidence in the business".

Earlier this year the company sold its French distribution division Brossette and its UK-based Build Center business for £310m to Saint-Gobain - which also owns the UK chain Jewson - as part of a disposal strategy.

Wolseley shares, which have risen 18pc since August last year, fell 2.7pc in early trading.

Source : The Telegraph

27 March 2012
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