CRH to seek approval for fresh €350m share buyback programme

CRH has confirmed its intention to continue its share buyback programme and return up to a further €350m to investors by August.

The construction materials group will seek shareholder approval for the move at its AGM in Dún Laoghaire tomorrow.

The group recently completed a €1bn buyback, which began last May and saw it purchase 35.6 million of its shares from investors. Upon completion of that round, CRH said further buybacks were "under active consideration," with the group's chief financial officer Senan Murphy saying buybacks are now "an ongoing part of the way we think about capital allocation going forward".

If approved, the next buyback programme will complete before CRH publishes half-year results in August.

Ahead of its AGM, CRH reported a strong performance for the first quarter of the year, with like-for-like sales in its Americas Materials business up 4%; and its Europe Materials division up 12% on the same period last year.

Group sales for the first quarter were 7% ahead, year-on-year, with mild weather conditions and pricing progress helping to boost sales volumes.

Ash Grove, the US cement producer which CRH acquired for €3bn last year, traded in line with expectations, with CRH saying planned synergies are progressing as planned. In the year-to-date, CRH has spent €200m on 16 bolt-on acquisitions and investments.

The group said it has reached agreement to sell its European Shutters and Awnings business to StellaGroup for more than €300m. It said its strategic review of its European Distribution business remains ongoing, "as we consider all options to maximise shareholder value".

CRH expects earnings for its seasonally-less significant first half to be over €1.5bn, which would be up from €1.13bn in the first half of 2018. This growth will largely be driven by acquisition contribution and currency exchange movements.

A year-on-year earnings rise is also expected for the second half of the year if normal weather patterns pan out and no market shocks emerge.

This AGM will be CRH's first shareholder meeting since activist investor Cevian Capital bought into the company earlier this year, with an expected view to gaining representation at board level.

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