DUBLIN, March 4 (Reuters) – Ireland’s CRH, the world’s second-biggest building materials supplier, is resuming share buybacks and on the prowl for bigger acquisitions, buoyed by a 5% rise in full year earnings and record cash generation.
CRH launched its first buyback programme in a decade in 2018 and had bought 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion) worth of stock before pausing it when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year.
Senan Murphy, CRH’s chief financial officer, told Reuters on Thursday that the world’s largest buyer of cement would look at further buybacks each quarter, but that would also depend on how much cash it decides to spend on acquisitions.
Dublin-based CRH said that it intended to buy up to 300 million euros of shares by the end of June after reporting full-year year core earnings of $4.6 billion. This compared with a November earnings forecast of more than $4.4 billion.
The group said that its pipeline of possible deals is strong and Murphy said that could include medium-size acquisitions as well as the smaller firms CRH has routinely acquired each year.
CRH said in its earnings statement that it expects recovery to continue across its main markets of Europe and North America as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out, but cautioned that the 2021 outlook remained unclear.
“We still remain uncertain as to what level of activities we’ll get back to in all of our markets,” Murphy said.
“If you look at non-residential activity, office, retail and some of those sectors, there is a level of uncertainty over them and there is probably going to be a lack of investment in the short term.”
CRH shares were up 0.7% to 38.4 euros at 1015 GMT. ($1 = 0.8308 euros) (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alexander Smith)