Hanson yesterday posted a 12 per cent rise in half-year profits as stronger US business helped it overcome a sharp slump in trading at its UK bricks division.
The rise in group profits to £193.6 million also reflected good performances from aggregates operations in Australia, Europe and the UK.
But the UK building products arm dragged back the group as weak demand in the repair and maintenance sector caused turnover in the division to fall by one per cent to £193.8 million and profits by 51.6 per cent to £10.4 million.
Hanson said there were signs the repair market may be stabilising, but stressed that it was not expecting any significant improvement in the second half of the year. The company said the outlook for the whole group remained in line with expectations with continued progress forecast for the remainder of 2006.
Turnover for the first half was up 14.4 per cent to nearly £2 billion, while underlying profits from continuing operations increased by 15.8 per cent to £228.4 million.
Hanson also spent £541.1 million on 12 acquisitions during the period, including £245 million for UK-based Civil and Marine, a leading producer of a high quality cement substitute.
The company added that it was pursuing a number of other acquisition opportunities, although it did not provide details.
The strongest divisional performance in the half year came from Hanson Aggregates North America after strong selling prices and tight cost controls lifted turnover by 20 per cent to £507.5 million and profits by 44 per cent to £57 million.
Strong demand also helped the company's North American building products arm as it delivered a 31 per cent increase in operating profits to £74.3 million.
In contrast, the company's UK arm reported a 19 per cent drop in brick volumes although average selling prices increased seven per cent as Hanson offset the impact of higher gas and electricity prices on its business.
Meanwhile, Hanson warned that its total worldwide fuel bill for 2006 could increase by £50 million to around £250 million as higher gas and raw material costs continue to show no signs of abating.
The group, whose energy bill increased by £25 million in the first six months of 2006, said higher natural gas and diesel fuel were the main culprits, although bitumen costs - used in the manufacture of asphalt products - were also climbing.
Around 40 per cent of the energy increase is expected to fall in the UK, where gas and electricity costs have soared in recent months. "I don't see any immediate respite on input costs," said Hanson's chief executive Alan Murray.
He added the group was looking at how "alternative fuels" help control costs with consumption kept to a minimum.