Ireland's CRH expects earnings to rise, assesses more sales

DUBLIN Wed May 7, 2014 3:09am EDT

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DUBLIN May 7 (Reuters) - Irish building materials and products group CRH expects earnings to rise this year after revenues grew sharply in its struggling European business in the first four months of the year.

CRH, whose rivals Holcim and Lafarge announced the industry's biggest merger last month, said sales rose 10 percent in Europe to the end of April, driven by better weather conditions and improving underlying market conditions.

In the United States, where CRH is the leading producer of asphalt for highway construction, cold weather hit early season activity but stronger housing activity and a strengthening economic background saw revenue rise by 2 percent.

"In Europe, the good start to the year in much more favourable weather conditions is encouraging. While we continue to expect second-half performance to be ahead of last year, we believe that the strong year-to-date rate of organic growth is likely to moderate," CRH said in a statement.

The Dublin-based group said it expects earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) in the seasonally less significant first half of the year to rise to 500 million euros ($697 million) from 400 million a year ago.

Earnings in the second-half should be somewhat ahead of last year, it added.

It also said that it had seen limited impact on trading to date from the political unrest in Ukraine, one of its main European markets, where cement volumes were up 30 percent. The outlook remains uncertain however, the Dublin-based group said.

After announcing a review of its portfolio last year, CRH said in February that it would sell 45 businesses representing 10 percent of net assets and would continue to keep a watch on other operations accounting for 20 percent of assets.

It said on Wednesday that it was assessing another selection of businesses that account for a further 10 percent of net assets where the returns potential was not yet clear. The review will be completed in the third quarter. ($1=0.7177 euros) (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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