Hanson slides on cautious outlook

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The Independent Online

The building materials group Hanson yesterday saw its shares slip 3 per cent after warning that it remained cautious about the outlook in 2002 for its key North American market.

However, the company added that it expected this year's profits to be "slightly ahead" of current market forecasts, which are around £328m.

Hanson, which makes 60 per cent of its sales in the US, said demand for building materials in California and the Carolinas was "softening", although mild weather had boosted aggregates sales in Texas and in the eastern US. A spokesman said: "We have seen the industrial and commercial side of the business slow this year and we expect housing, which is a big part of the business, to soften next year." This would affect demand for bricks and concrete, he said, although US infrastructure related demand was expected to remain good.

Hanson's cautious remarks echoed those from its Irish rival CRH last month, which sent shares in building materials firms tumbling. CRH warned of "challenging" trading conditions in the first half of next year. Yesterday, Hanson's stock fell 13.5p to 475.5p. The group said that it had made good progress in strengthening its balance sheet during 2001 and improving its operational performance.

The spokesman declined to comment on speculation that the company intended to sell its European brickmaking business. He added that although small "bits and pieces" may be identified for disposal there would be nothing of the scale of the waste management business sold earlier this year for £185m.