Building materials group Kingspan has reported an 18% rise in its trading profit to €445.2m, as revenues comfortably broke the €4 billion barrier for the first time.

The company reported solid growth across most of Europe and the Americas - though Brexit uncertainty kept a lid on activity in the UK.

"The growth was really across most of our markets in the world but I'd highlight in particular the performance of the business in western Europe and North America," said Gene Murtagh, CEO of Kingspan. "They were stand-out regions for us."

Brexit is taking its toll on the key British market, however, with sales relatively unchanged year-on-year and signs of further weakness ahead

"The UK was pretty stable for us and that weakened towards year end," he said. "Not surprisingly, I think, as the uncertainty has been increasing."

As well as having a large percentage of its sales in Britain, Kingspan also has a significant manufacturing presence across the UK - which enhances the issues it could face in the coming weeks.

However Mr Murtagh says that, like many, they remain unsure of what's ahead and have not made any notable changes as a result.

"We have considered all the various outcomes of Brexit but we would still be relatively in the dark in terms of where this ends up. In the absence of some clarity around that, we actually haven't taken any specific action, and until we do have some proper colour it, we won't," he said.


He conceded that this approach was risky, though he said it was equally risky to take action now that ended up the completely wrong thing to do when the eventual outcome is known.

Instead he said the company would remain ready to act - and he was confident that its manufacturing in other parts of Europe would be able to adapt no matter what happens at the end of March.

"We'll be highly agile as a business with respect to how we respond to this," he said. "We've got lots of manufacturing assets in and near western Europe that would be able to cope in any event, I'd guess."

Kingspan has been on a spending spree in recent years, committing €440m to investments in 2017 and a further €265m last year. Mr Murtagh has previously said that the firm has the potential to spend a further €500m on purchases and investments and he does not see Brexit changing their approach in that regard.

"I don't believe Brexit will necessarily influence the pace at which we acquire elsewhere in the world," he said. "The UK in itself wouldn't be a particular target market for acquisition investment for Kingspan at this stage; we've generally moved beyond that.

"We'll be governed by our overall balance sheet capability and that does leave us with €500-600m of headroom as things presently stand. Naturally that can ebb and flow with what happens to the global economy, and we'll keep a rolling eye on that."

Mr Murtagh said they would also keep an eye on changes to the UK Corporate Governance Code - something the company has traditionally adhered to.

It was recently amended to suggest that chairmen stay no longer than nine years after their appointment by the board but Kingspan's chair, Eugene Murtagh, has served for well in excess of that.

But it would be company and not code that would most inform any changes to the present situation, according to the CEO.

"He's been around for a lot longer than [nine years] and done a great job," he said. "The board keeps a constant eye on what's happening in codes and reviews that annually, as it does indeed the chairman himself.

"I'd say as a board we'll respond to whatever is right for the business as opposed to necessarily adhering to codes."