trade giant says sales flat in UK

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Plumb Center and Pipe Center owner Wolseley reported flat UK annual sales yesterday as its key housing repair market remained sluggish.

It posted a marginal 0.1 per cent like-for-like fall in UK revenues in the year to the end of July after a deterioration over the second half of the period.

Overall, the largest building supplies group in the world said pre-tax profits jumped by more than half to £698m, driven by strong US revenues and after large one-off charges a year ago.

Sales lifted 2.2 per cent to £12.6bn.

It added that a strong pound had impacted trading profit by £30m, but announced that its strong cash generation would see it return £250m to investors via a share buyback programme within the next 12 months.

The firm said its housing repair and maintenance market, which accounts for 54 per cent of UK sales remains modest. It added its new residential construction business grew strongly, but only accounted for seven per cent of revenues.

Wolseley said trading at its UK plumbing, heating, pipe and its climate stores was marked by a “challenging pricing environment”.

It added that even though it closed seven branches and added 10 through acquisitions, UK trading profit edged up by just £1m to £96m, while the group’s strongest region was the US.