Upturn in UK building activity boosts Travis Perkins sales

LONDON, April 24 Thu Apr 24, 2014 2:41am EDT

LONDON, April 24 (Reuters) - Travis Perkins, Britain's No. 1 supplier of building materials, posted a strong rise in first quarter sales, benefiting from the upturn in building activity and the strength of housing transactions.

The firm said on Thursday sales at depots and stores open over a year increased 12.7 percent in the fiscal first quarter of 2014, driven by market share gains and volume growth but also helped by very weak comparative numbers in 2013 when trade was hit by unseasonably cold weather.

Like-for-like sales in Travis' general merchandise division rose 16.6 percent, were up 6.9 percent in the consumer division, which includes the Wickes home improvement chain, and increased 13.2 percent in the plumbing and heating business.

Travis said sales price deflation experienced in 2013 dissipated in the first quarter of 2014, albeit not all of the cost price increases from manufacturers were fully passed through to customers.

British house prices unexpectedly picked up speed in March and sales reached a six-year high, a survey showed earlier this month, suggesting the market is still firmly on the rise.

"All of our businesses recorded strong sales growth in the first quarter of 2014 and lead indicators for our different markets are encouraging ... and we remain on course to meet our targets set out in February," said Chief Executive John Carter.

"We are confident that the plans we have in place will support our drive to outperform our markets, improve earnings and ultimately increase return on capital."

Shares in Travis Perkins, which entered the FTSE 100 index of Britain's largest companies last June, have increased by 25 percent over the last year.

They closed at 1,832 pence on Wednesday, valuing the business at 4.53 billion pounds ($7.6 billion).

($1 = 0.5960 British Pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Neil Maidment)

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