Strong pound hits Bunzl

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BUSINESS supplies distributor Bunzl reported a one per cent fall in revenue in the first half of its financial year, after it was hit by the strength of sterling.

The company said in June it expected to see a six per cent rise in revenue at constant exchange rates, but the strength of the pound wiped out the growth in underlying demand.

Bunzl said first-half revenue climbed seven per cent at constant exchange rates, helped by the impact of recent acquisitions in Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands.

The company also posted a five per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £176.6m for the six months ended June 30, up from £167.6m a year earlier. Bunzl said it had acquired four new businesses in the past two months, with annualised revenue of £34.8m, bringing its total acquisition spending this year to £119m. The company, which supplies supermarkets, hospitals and hotels with products ranging from carrier bags to toilet rolls, has been on a steady acquisition drive, spending £1.7bn on 80 deals over the past 10 years.

Last year, Bunzl spent £295m on 11 acquisitions, the highest amount spent in a single year since 2004, in countries including Brazil, Australia and Canada. Analysts have estimated that Bunzl, which generates 83 per cent of group revenue outside the UK and Ireland, could afford to spend about £300m a year on acquisitions for the next four years.