Wolseley Plc, the U.K.-based construction supply giant, reported today that its U.S. operations--primarily the plumbing supply distributor Ferguson--posted a 22.7% decline in trading profit for the year ended July 31 to reach 239 million pounds ($375.2 million) on an 11.1% drop in revenue to 5.17 billion pounds ($8.12 billion).
Wolseley also said its construction loans arm, the only part of the company that it kept last year when it sold a majority stake in Stock Building Supply, saw its trading loss shrink to 4 million pounds from 24 million pounds on zero revenue. Wolseley has been steadily unwinding its loan operations in the United States.
Wolseley's U.S. operations consist almost exclusively of Ferguson, the Newport News, Va.-based distributor of plumbing supplies. The U.S. business provided 39% of Wolseley's overall revenues (13.2 billion pounds) but 53% of its trading profit (450 million pounds) in fiscal 2010. That's a turnaround from previous years, when losses by Stock and the weak American economy in general led to a half in Stock's rapid expansion and, in May 2009, the sale of a 51% stake in Stock to the Gores Group of Los Angeles. Today's results don't include Wolseley's 49% stake in Stock, a spokesperson for the company said.
Wolseley officials said U.S. operations had improved markedly through the fiscal year, going from a year-over-revenue decline of 21% in the first quarter from the year earlier period, to a second-quarter drop of 14%, to a third-quarter decline of 4%, and finally to a 5% increase in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter, which ran from May through July of 2010.
Residential remodeling and the like accounted for 28% of sales while residential new construction figured into 14% of U.S. revenues, the company said. Non-residential remodeling figured in 29% of sales, non-residential new construction in 14%, and civil infrastructure projects in the final 15% of sales. The number of U.S. branches rose by 13 during the fiscal year to total 1,241, while the number of employees in the United States declined by 488 to reach 16,914.
The construction loans operation has shrunk from receivables of 163 million pounds as of July 31, 2009, to 80 million pounds as of this July 31.