Midland-based heating and plumbing giant Wolseley has announced another 2,800 jobs are to go at its troubled US division.
The firm, which has its UK headquarters in Leamington Spa, wielded the axe at its Stocks and Ferguson businesses as the downturn in the US residential homes market and the continued weakness of the dollar severely hit group profits for the three months to October 31.
The group shed 1,700 workers in the quarter and is planning to axe another 1,300 jobs in the second three months - making a total of 3,000 in the first half of 2007-08. In its last fiscal year to July 31, it cut a total of 6,000 jobs, with around 3,500 of these at US building materials firm Stocks.
This time Stocks has seen another 1,500 jobs depart, while heating and plumbing supplies unit Ferguson is set to lose 1,300 workers in the second quarter after 200 in the first three months.
Group chief executive Chip Hornsby said: "The group is going through a very difficult period and we're having to take swift and decisive action to adjust our cost base."
Mr Hornsby warned there were increasing signs the UK housing market is also slowing, while the repairs, maintenance and improvement sector is showing signs of weakness, due to deteriorating consumer confidence and tighter credit conditions.
Profits from North America are continuing to be hit by the slowdown in the housing market, falling consumer confidence and the weaker dollar, which is hurting profits on translation. The group used a dollar/sterling exchange rate of 2.03 in the quarter, compared to 1.89 for the same period a year ago.
Trading profits from North America were consequently down by 30 per cent in the three months to October as Stocks incurred a first-quarter loss, while total revenues were adrift 10 per cent. On a constant currency basis, revenues and profits would both have been about six per cent higher.
The picture was a little brighter in Europe, with good performances from the UK and the Nordic regions offsetting downturns in France and Central and Eastern Europe, but these were not enough to stem the decline in North America.
Overall, underlying pre-tax profits for the group as a whole were down by almost 15 per cent in the three months to October, prompting one broker to call yesterday's update "a profit warning".
Panmure Gordon said it would have to make "a big downgrade" to its earnings projections and was looking at a 20 per cent fall in profits to some £600 million for 2007-08.
Mr Hornsby said he remained confident of achieving a seven per cent operating margin by 2011, despite the more challenging trading conditions in North America. But he acknowledged the board may have to look at the figure again if the downturn continues for another 12 to 24 months.
"As it stands at the moment, we are still on track to achieve this target," he said.
The redundancies will save £35.9 million in 2007-08, rising to £60 million in a full year, while other savings and efficiency measures are planned.
Mr Hornsby also hinted the group may slow its acquisition programme and become "more selective" on purchases over the coming months.
He said: "We'll look to keep our powder dry, especially in North America where we expect acquisition prices to fall.
"We're not going to jump into buying something today that we could buy more cheaply in five-to-six months time."
So far this year, Wolseley has spent £170 million on bolt-on acquisitions.