UPDATE 1-Home improvement boom drives Geberit to 14% sales growth

(Adds details, company comment)

ZURICH, May 4 (Reuters) - Geberit reported a 14% increase in first quarter sales, the plumbing and bathroom component supplier said on Tuesday, as building activity ramped up at the start of the year.

The company, whose results are seen as a signifier for the health of the broader construction industry, said it was seeing a massive increase in home improvements by customers.

Fitters and plumbers were also increasing their stocks after running them down during 2020, as well as buying new piping and ceramics ahead of price increases this year.

As a result, the Swiss company said its sales rose to 910 million Swiss francs ($995.30 million) from 797.6 million francs a year earlier. Operating profit rose 24% to 276.4 million francs from 223.7 million francs in the first quarter of 2020.

Net income rose 27% to 232.5 million Swiss francs.

Sales in Europe, by far the company’s biggest region, rose by 13.3%, while in Asia - which was more badly affected by COVID-19 in the first quarter of last year - sales increased by 41%.

Geberit said it expected a significant increase in raw material prices during the second quarter, which would reduce its profit margin.

It remained “very difficult to provide an outlook at present due to the ongoing uncertainties in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, as well as a lack of visibility,” the company said.

$1 = 0.9143 Swiss francs Reporting by John Revill Editing by Riham Alkousaa and Silke Koltrowitz