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Irish builders merchant Grafton sees 'green shoots' in the UK

Irish builders merchants Grafton Group has said it is seeing signs of “green shoots” in its UK businesses.

Grafton’s turnover for 2009 totalled €1.98 billion (£1.77 billion) down 26 per cent on the €2.67 billion (£2.39 billion) achieved in 2008.

In a trading update for the year to 31 December 2009 Grafton said like for like sales per working day in the UK businesses, which account for over two thirds of group turnover, continued to improve relative to earlier in 2009.

The group’s overall sales in the second half of the year were similar to those achieved in the first six months.

In constant currency terms, the group’s merchanting turnover was down 14 per cent compared to 24 per cent in the first half.

DIY turnover was down 18 per cent in the second half, unchanged on the first half.

Manufacturing turnover was down 36 per cent in the second half compared to 49 per cent in the first half.  

The trading update said: “Conditions remain challenging in this market.

“However, ‘green shoots’ evident in key UK sectoral indicators such as increased mortgage lending, housing transactions, house building and some house price inflation are being reflected in improving sales across our UK businesses.

“In Ireland, like for like sales per working day in the second half were down 32 per cent compared to minus 37 per cent in the first half.”

The group said it is cautious about the outlook for 2010 but it will benefit from the cost reduction and integration programme implemented over the last 18 months.