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Ireland's Grafton First-Half Revenue 12.5% Higher

Irish building supplies company Grafton Group said on Thursday that first-half revenue rose 12.5% to 1.6 billion euros ($2.20 billion), helped by a solid U.K. market and its Irish home-improvement unit.

"The group expects strong double digit earnings growth for the period driven by improving returns in the U.K. and by an ongoing good performance in the context of slower growth in the Irish merchanting market," it added in a trading statement.

The owner of builders' and plumbers' merchants in Ireland and Britain had said in May it had made a good start to 2007 and that it was confident about the rest of the year.

"Grafton Group has entered the second half of the year in a strong position to deal with a future trading environment that is expected to be more challenging," it said on Thursday.

Grafton said improved conditions in the U.K. merchanting market in the second half of 2006 had continued into 2007 with mid-single-digit percentage growth in first-half sales.

"Although there has been a moderation in the level of new residential construction activity in Ireland, the group's Irish merchanting business achieved low single digit like-for-like sales growth in the first six months of the year," Grafton said.

At its Irish do-it-yourself (DIY) business, the company said business had been strong with good like-for-like sales growth due to high levels of consumer spending.