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ZURICH, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Plumbing suppliers maker Geberit’s sales growth slowed markedly during its fourth quarter, it said on Thursday, confirming the gloomier picture it painted last year as trade tensions weighed on building projects.
Currency-adjusted sales increased by 3 percent during the last three months of the year, down from the 5.3 percent rate a year earlier, as Italy - which was gripped by uncertainty over the government’s budget plans - and Switzerland struggled.
The slowdown contributed to a 40 basis point dip in the company’s annual sales growth rate to 3.1 percent, as strong growth in Spain, Portugal and eastern Europe was offset by falling sales in Britain and Scandinavia for the company whose products include shower toilets and piping.
Geberit’s fourth-quarter sales of 710 million Swiss francs were in line with expectations of 705 million francs in a Reuters poll of analysts.
Its full-year sales increased to 3.08 billion Swiss francs ($2.39 billion) from 2.91 billion francs a year earlier, matching estimates.
Geberit, whose products are used in refurbishment and new-build projects, is seen as a signifier for the health of the broader construction sector.
In October its shares plunged after it said fears of a global trade war and rising interest rates were dampening growth.
Geberit, which is due to report earnings on March 12, said it expected an operating cashflow profit margin of 28 percent for 2018, in line with previous guidance.
Higher sales volumes, price increases, and efficiency improvements are expected to have a positive impact on its operating profits, the company said.
But higher raw material prices and personnel expenses will be a negative, it said.
$1 = 0.9911 Swiss francs Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields