Wolseley warms up with better figures

Building and heating supplies firm Wolseley reported a better-than-expected start to its financial year yesterday driven by strong sales in its North American businesses.

The FTSE 100 Index-listed company, which generates 81 per cent of its business overseas, said US revenue was up 6 per cent like-for-like in the three months to October 31, while revenues in Canada were up 7 per cent.

In the UK, where the business trades as Plumb Center and Build Center, total revenues were down 4 per cent, but like-for-like sales were ahead 5 per cent after the disposal of businesses including Brandon Hire in September.

The strong North American performance offset weaker sales across Europe, to see total group revenues increase by 4 per cent, and trading profit rise 39 per cent to 159m in the quarter.

Ian Meakins, Wolseley chief executive, said: "Most markets continued to grow in the first quarter and the group's trading performance was slightly ahead of management expectations."

The company said sales in North America were lifted by demand in residential markets, as well as the industrial and waterworks sectors.

Currency movements hit performance in France and Central Europe, Wolseley added.

The group was hit hard by the recession – slumping into the red during the year to July 31, 2009.

Mr Meakins led a company-wide review after the downturn, which saw 19 of the group's underperforming businesses, including Brandon Hire, put on a list to improve or sell.