Sales of building supplies in Britain have improved since it voted to leave the European Union last June and there is no evidence yet that Brexit's impact will ultimately be negative for the sector, Irish firm Kingspan said on Friday.
Kingspan, the biggest producer of building insulation in Britain, Ireland, Canada and Australasia, beat analyst expectations to report profits up 33 percent for 2016, buoyed by a strengthening of UK sales in the second half of the year.
Trading profit was 341 million euros for the year, compared to an average forecast of 330 million in a Reuters poll of seven analysts.
"Bizarrely, activity has been better since June 23 than it was before. We had a particularly strong finish to the year," Chief Executive Gene Murtagh told Reuters.
"The foregone conclusion is it's going to be negative, but I don't know enough to say that," he said. "We've no idea what Brexit actually means."
Kingspan's order book for 2017 is "solidly ahead" of the same point last year, he said.
But Kingspan is seeing evidence of a shift in economic growth patterns in continental Europe, with Germany flat and activity in Belgium and the Netherlands improving and particularly strong growth in France.
There is no sign yet of a boost to the U.S. construction sector following the election of President Donald Trump, he added.
A key challenge for Kingspan this year will be passing on recent rapid rises in cost inflation in steel and chemical, Murtagh said. While the company is confident it can pass it on, it may take some time, he said.
"More than likely it would be in the first quarter that the lag would be obvious," he said. (Reuters)