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Wolseley mulls return after tax move

The heating and plumbing giant Wolseley is prepared to return to the UK provided the Chancellor follows through on his promise to reform the tax regime for overseas corporate earnings.

"We are awaiting the final legislation – the devil is in the detail" its finance director John Martin said. "We have no political axe to grind. It's purely and simply about pragmatism".

Wolseley moved its holding company to Switzerland in 2010 to avoid tax on overseas income under the controlled controlled foreign companies (CFC) tax rules.

In last week's Budget, George Osborne reiterated his pledge to overhaul the CFC tax regime. Legislation is expected to be put forward in the coming weeks.

Sir Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP, has also signalled that the advertising giant will move its tax domicile back from Ireland to the UK if the Chancellor follows through.

Wolseley yesterday announced pre-tax profits in the six months to the end of January of £250m, up 28 per cent, while revenues were up 3 per cent to £6.84bn. Its chief executive Ian Martin said growth prospects in the US, where Wolseley makes 43 per cent of its revenues, were encouraging, but that the outlook was flat for the UK.

"About 70 per cent of our UK operation is focused around the repairs and remodelling business, and... we think it's going to be pretty flat for the next six to 12 months" he said.

Wolseley reported a 3 per cent, like-for-like decline in revenues in the UK, where it trades as Plumb Center, BCG and Bathstore.