GRAFTON UPBEAT ON PERFORMANCE FOR 2013 - Builders merchanting and DIY group Grafton said that profit before tax rose by 41% for last year at €59.7m, driven largely by its UK builders merchanting businesses. It noted that 2012 was a year when all three of its divisions - merchanting, retailing and manufacturing - were profitable. Its revenue rose by 6% to €2.2 billion.
Gavin Slark, Grafton's chief executive, says the company made progress in very challenging conditions last year. Mr Slark says no one could argue that the markets in which Grafton operates continue to be very difficult. But he points out that in Ireland, the company managed to make money in the merchanting business, while it was marginally profitable in the Woodies DIY retail business and returned the manufacturing business to profit. He says a lot of restructuring went on in the Grafton Group in the last few years, which resulted in restructuring charges. But from now on that kind of major restructuring has come to an end and the group can focus on growth within the group. On the economy, Mr Slark says it is still very difficult to be overly optimistic for 2013. Grafton's builders' merchanting business has been flat for the first two months of the year in terms of revenue, which Mr Slark says is the best performance from the division in over five years. ''The flattening of the market now is hopefully the first sign of stabilisation in the Irish economy, which over time will lead to a growth pattern'', he states.
FARM LAND PRICES SEE FIRST RISE IN SIX YEARS - €20,000 per acre in 2006 to €10,000 now - but the collapse in agricultural land has stopped, according to the Farmers Journal. Last year saw an increase per acre of just over 14% across the country with some counties doing better than others. The figures are in today's Agricultural Land Price Report 2012.
The report's editor - Joanne Fox - says that farm land prices in 2006 were over inflated due to property developers and speculators. She says that farmers were excluded from the market at these prices, but today's index shows that farmers are now back in the market with land prices up for the first time in six years. Ms Fox says farmers are underpinning the market at this time as they continue to look at expansion and consolidation and they are engaged in both buying and selling. She says that farmers will always look for good land and ''ready to go'' parcels. Parcels over 200 acre with existing infrastructure facilities are selling especially well, she adds.
MORNING BRIEFS - Fruit group Fyffes said its adjusted profit before tax for 2012 was €30.3m, up 36.2% up on 2011. The company's chairman David McCann said Fyffes had delivered a very strong performance in 2012 and revenue exceeded €1 billion.
*** Wall Street shares set fresh record highs last night, building on Tuesday's records. The Dow Jones rose by 0.3% to 14,296. Shares there were boosted by a report which showed US companies had created more jobs than expected in February. The Dow's top gainer was Bank of America, which rose 3.2%. Top faller was Microsoft, which dropped 0.9% after it was fined €561m for failing to offer users a choice of web browser.