British plumber Wolseley says returns to profit

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Wolseley, the world's biggest distributor of plumbing and heating products, said Tuesday that it had returned to profit in 2010/11 after two years of heavy losses.

Net profit stood at £271 million (317 million euros, $419 million) in the 12 months to the end of July compared with a loss after tax of £340 million in 2009/10, Wolseley said in an earnings statement.

"We have delivered another decent set of results despite challenging economic conditions," Wolseley chief executive Ian Meakins said in the release.

"Our disposal programme is now substantially complete, enabling us to focus on our great businesses in attractive markets."

Wolseley was hit hard by the 2008 credit crisis and resulting economic downturn, causing it to axe thousands of jobs and shut sites. It suffered a net loss of £1.17 billion in 2008/09.

The impact was heightened by Wolseley's exposure to a troubled housing market in the United States -- a country that accounts for about 40 percent of the group's sales.

© 2011 AFP

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