British plumber Wolseley swings in profit

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Wolseley, the world's biggest distributor of plumbing and heating products, said Tuesday that it had returned to profit during the group's first-half after plugging sizeable losses.

Wolseley posted net profit of £133 million (151 million euros, $213 million) for the six months to January 31, compared with a loss after tax of £220 million in the first-half of 2009-10, as the group slashed costs.

"We continue to maintain our emphasis on protecting market share and gross margins while keeping a tight control on the cost base," chief executive Ian Meakins said in Wolseley's earnings statement.

"The group expects to continue to grow in the second half of the year."

Wolseley also announced it would resume payment of shareholder dividends after turning around its fortunes in recent months.

The company was hit hard by the 2008 credit crisis and resulting economic downturn, causing it to axe thousands of jobs and shut sites.

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.

"Construction markets have now broadly stabilized in most of our geographies, particularly the new residential and RMI (repairs, maintenance and improvement) segments in the US," Meakins added on Tuesday.

© 2011 AFP

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