CRH shares sink despite more buys and uptick in US infrastructure approvals

Shares in CRH fell by more than 3% despite signs of a recovery in roadbuilding contracts in the US and the group strengthening its building products business there.

The Irish building materials giant's shares have fallen by around 11% over the past 12 months. Europe's largest activist investor, Cevian Capital, bought into CRH earlier this year and is expected to grow its stake.

CRH has since defended its organic growth capabilities after reports suggested Cevian viewed the group's growth prospects as being too heavily dependent on acquisitions.

CRH spent around €200m on 16 bolt-on acquisitions during the first four months of this year. Via its US-based Oldcastle Infrastructure subsidiary - part of the group's building products division - CRH has now acquired Washington State-based water management and utility solutions company Granite Precasting and Concrete for an undisclosed sum.

It follows on from the purchase of Quality Concrete Products - a provider of water management products for infrastructure projects also based in Washington - in April.

"The deal continues to expand CRH's exposure to the water management segment, considered a key growth area," said Davy analyst Robert Gardiner.

"It allows the group to offer a broad range of products to complement its existing materials, offering infrastructure to project work...CRH's strong financial position allows these bolt-on acquisitions and to continue its €350m share buyback," said Mr Gardiner.

Latest figures from the American Road Transportation Builders Association, meanwhile, show a recovery in the level of roadbuilding contracts being granted in the US.

CRH said last year that US infrastructure projects - including road and housebuilding - using its products would be a key growth driver for it over the coming years.

CRH's Americas Materials division is the leading supplier of cement, asphalt and ready-mixed concrete and paving to the construction sector in North America. Last year, the division grew sales by 12% to €8.95bn and saw an 18% jump in operating profit to just over €1bn.

May saw a 7% year-on-year jump in highway obligations, or approved contracts, taking year-to-date obligations to $20.67bn. More importantly, it bucks a three-month trend of declining approval levels.

"The improvement likely stems from the bill signed into law by President Trump on February 15. This bill funded the US Department of Transport through September after the disruption of multiple continuing resolutions and the 35-day partial government shutdown," said Mr Gardiner.

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