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Spotlight: Travis Perkins

FINANCE

AFTER acquiring DIY chain Wickes for £990 million 18 months ago, Travis Perkins underperformed in the eyes of the City.

Since then, many opinions on prospects for the builders' merchant have changed and the results for the first half of this year underline this.

The business generates lots of cash, which is being used to pay down debts, and expectations in the UK are good.

Home improvement had been an area of concern and Perkins can still do better in this area - recent results from Kingfisher, which owns rival DIY operation B&Q, suggest the market is there.

Perkins' interims proved better than many expected - partly because the group did not issue a pre-close trading statement.

Builders' merchanting still provides 70 per cent of the £1.4 billion interim revenue and 77 per cent of the operating profits.

General merchanting sales were marginally down but specialist insulation and dry lining, plumbing and heating all made advances on a year ago.

With the construction industry still relatively buoyant, this reliance on the original core business is no bad thing but Wickes has changed the nature of the company.

New openings at Wickes have dipped since the acquisition but the firm intends to expand the business's floor space by 7 per cent over the next 18 months.

More interest rate rises will not help this business and, at current levels, the shares look evenly priced. Hold.