Acquisitions will be broadly within existing areas of expertise. Mr Godson said: "We have 12 teams working round the world looking at development prospects. The response depends on individual owners and whether it is right for them to sell.
"We have done a lot over the last year and we have a lot of profits to squeeze out of that. There are some painful decisions to be made in cost cutting from acquisitions but we are pretty well on target so far." CRH bought Tilcon, the US-based building materials business, from BTR last September for $329m.
The company also announced yesterday that pre-tax profits in 1996 rose 20 per cent to Irpounds 193.45m. The UK was one of the weaker spots with profits down about 11 per cent on 1995. But there were signs of light in the last quarter and sales this year showed a modest upturn.
North America accounted for 42 per cent of turnover last year, the UK 19 per cent and Ireland 13 per cent. In the longer term the group hopes to have about 45 per cent of its business in the US, 45 per cent in Europe and 10 per cent in emerging economies such as Argentina and Poland.