View from City Road: Redland climbs on German roofs

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The Independent Online
The 9p rise in Redland's shares yesterday to 564p reflected a muted sigh of relief that the German appetite for roof tiles is as healthy as ever. Disappointing figures two weeks ago from RMC, with its large exposure to German infrastructure spending, had given the market jitters.

A 22 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 108m came as welcome relief after a steady decline since the market peaked in 1989. However, the acquisition of Steetley in March 1992, ahead of the construction downturn in France, is still taking its toll on earnings, which fell 5 per cent.

Fears that growth in the broken-down eastern Lander would be undermined by a slowdown in the western economy have proved premature. Housing permits in the west rose 9 per cent.

With half of Redland's operating profits coming from Germany, the inflow of immigrants and low mortgage rates will continue to tide the company over. Better news from Britain, the US and France may provide a ray of hope that Redland's dividend is sustainable even without the company's tax-planning skills.

Profits from the US were more than doubled in the first half. They improved at home, and France, whose importance was magnified by the Steetley acquisition, is now bottoming out, albeit at a depressed level.

One of the more encouraging messages to emerge was that prices for all Redland's products have turned, even if the recent firmness has done little more than repair last year's damage.

If the UK bounces as expected, Redland's advance corporation tax worries should evaporate. That means that a maintained 25p dividend looks safe. Market worries, reflected in a yield of more than 5 per cent, are overdone.