Wolseley plc's John Whybrow told shareholders at this week's annual meeting that he is optimistic of the progress the London-based company - which owns HVAC supplier Ferguson in the U.S. - has made this year.
There has been no significant change in the market conditions affecting the group's businesses since the preliminary results announcement," he said.
Whysbrow said the group's U.S. businesses have "made an excellent start to the year" and continue to achieve strong organic growth. He said the housing market remains strong, but that the number of housing starts may reduce as a result of higher interest rates.
"The robust U.S. economy should present further opportunities for organic growth," he said. "The improvement in the industrial and commercial sectors is expected to continue."
He added however that the U.S. lumber and structural panels prices have softened since year end, as anticipated.
The Canadian market is expected to remain strong, as well, he said, although the new residential housing market may fall slightly from recent high levels. Gross margins there, he said, continue to be affected by competitive pricing pressure.
The UK business continues to outperform the market, Whysbrow said, but the rate of organic sales growth has been more modest than in the same period last year. Lower trading margins reflect additional pension and restructuring costs. "In view of continued consumer caution, the year is likely to prove more challenging than the prior year," he said.
Wolseley has acquired 15 companies in the past year across both Europe and the U.S. Most recently, Wolseley has acquired companies that specialize in insulation and electrical supplies in the UK market.