Grafton Group, the Dublin-based building materials company, has defied the gloom surrounding the Republic’s housing market reporting strong first-half results, largely driven by its UK division.

The company unexpectedly brought forward its results by three weeks to free its hand for possible share buy-backs in the light of general market uncertainty and recent declines in its stock price.

Operating profits ahead of exceptionals rose from €105m to €123m (£85m) in the six months to June 30. Pre-tax profits, including a €28m gain on a property disposal in the previous period, fell from €118.3m to €106.4m. UK operating profit rose 28 per cent to €63.8m and now accounts for 51 per cent of group operating profit.

Earnings per share were 38.69 cents (42.77 cents).

The company has merchanting and retail activities in Ireland. In the UK, it has expanded by acquisition and now owns the Buildbase and Plumbase brands of builders and plumbers suppliers. It also owns a dry mortar business called Euromix.

In line with other stocks exposed to Ireland’s cooling housing market, Grafton shares have fallen 20 per cent in the year to date.

Michael Chadwick, executive chairman and 10 per cent shareholder, was confident Grafton was “well placed to respond to changing market conditions”.

The shares rose 54 cents to €9.90.

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