Grafton Group, Irish builders merchant and DIY company, said on Friday that turnover in 2005 was up 37% to *2.6bn (£1.8bn) and that earnings were expected to be in line with expectations.

In a pre-close trading update the company said its performance was boosted by a strong market in Ireland, which offset "weaker trading conditions in the UK during the second half of the year".

The rise in turnover was largely driven by Heiton Group, which Grafton acquired for *359m (£245m) in January last year. In total it completed 17 acquisitions last year for about *470m (£321m), 14 of which were in the UK and the remaining three in Ireland. It now trades from more than 480 branches.

The statement said: "The group remains positive in its outlook for the UK market but expects difficult conditions to continue in that market during the first half of 2006."