Firm behind DIY chain builds hopes

BUILDING supplies firm Travis Perkins highlighted brighter prospects for Wickes and its other leading brands as confidence returns to the housing market.

The group, which also trades as Toolstation, Keyline and Tilestation, suffered in Britain’s frozen start to the year but said there was a significant improvement in demand in May and June, with that trend set to continue in the second half.

Its half-year profits rose 4.1 per cent to £136.1m despite the conditions, helped by self-help measures and the more normal seasonal weather patterns from April onwards and the impact of the Government’s help-to-buy house scheme.

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The Northampton-based company, which operates 17 businesses from more than 1,900 sites, said: “Looking ahead to the second half of 2013 and beyond, lead indicators suggest we will see modest growth returning to most market segments.”

Revenues at DIY arm Wickes declined across the first half, although the figure for the last eight weeks of the period showed an increase of 8.6 per cent. The division’s profits were 7.3 per cent higher at £29.5m.

The general merchanting business posted a 7.3 per cent fall in profits to £72.8m as a 2.7 per cent increase in like-for-like revenues was offset by market-wide price cuts at the start of the period.

Travis underlined its confidence in prospects by announcing a 25 per cent increase in its half-year dividend payment to shareholders. The performance came as Travis said its chief executive since 2005, Geoff Cooper, will step down from the role on January 1.