* Travis Perkins H1 pretax profit up 4.1 pct
* Travis CEO Geoff Cooper to retire in January
* Howden Joinery pretax up 67 pct
* Travis shares down 0.4 pct, Howden up 4.5 pct
By James Davey
LONDON, July 25 Britain's improving construction
and housing markets helped two of its biggest trade suppliers,
Travis Perkins and Howden Joinery, to post
increased first-half profits.
The number of property transactions in Britain is growing
and mortgage approvals are ahead of last year as government
initiatives to stimulate the housing market start to kick-in.
Travis Perkins, Britain's biggest supplier of
building materials, said on Thursday its underlying pretax
profit rose 4.1 percent to 136.1 million pounds ($209 million)
in the six months to June 30, on revenue up 1.6 percent at 2.45
The company, which also trades as Wickes, City Plumbing,
Keyline, Tile Giant and BSS, said a poor first quarter was made
worse by cold weather around Easter. However, demand picked-up
significantly in May and June and the better trend has continued
into the second half.
"Lead indicators for the remainder of this year, and for
2014, are strengthening, with new housing leading the way," said
Chief Executive Geoff Cooper, who the company said would retire
in the new year.
Travis raised its interim dividend 25 percent to 10 pence
and forecast full-year earnings per share in line with the
market consensus of about 100 pence.
Shares in the firm, which last month entered the FTSE-100
index of Britain's largest companies, have risen 71 percent over
the last year. But the stock was down 10 pence at 1,699 pence at
0825 GMT, valuing the business at 4.1 billion pounds, as news of
the highly regarded Cooper's planned departure took the shine
off the positive outlook.
Cooper, CEO since 2005, will step down from the top job on
Jan. 1 and as a director on March 6. He will be succeeded as CEO
by John Carter, the current deputy chief executive.
Cooper told Reuters he had originally planned to stop
working full-time when he was 55, but had stayed with Travis to
steer it through the recession.
"We're in really good shape now. I'm 60 next year. I work
seven days a week and I promised my wife I would stop," he said.
Howden, the surviving remnant of the MFI Furniture group,
said underlying pretax profit jumped 67 percent to 43.2 million
pounds in the 24 weeks to June 15, on revenue up 7.2 percent at
390.8 million pounds.
The group, which sells kitchens from 537 UK depots to over
270,000 small builder account customers, said sales were up 7.6
percent in the first four weeks of its second half.
Shares in Howden have more than doubled over the last year
as it has been trading robustly and property liabilities
relating to its previous ownership under MFI have been
mitigated. The stock was up 4.5 percent at 287.7 pence, valuing
the business at 1.85 billion pounds.
The firm is paying an interim dividend of 1.0 pence, up from
0.3 pence last time.