St Gobain, one of the world’s biggest building materials companies, said that a strong repair and maintenance market in the UK helped to increase profitability last year.

The French company, which has a secondary listing on the London stock exchange, said annual operating profit rose 10.3% last year to €2.6bn (£1.8bn). Sales increased 8.2% to €32bn (£22.1bn).

The UK and Ireland markets combined accounted for 11%, or €3.8bn (£2.6bn), of group sales. A spokesperson for the company said that its UK distribution businesses, Jewson and Graham, had performed well, with an improvement in margins and the benefit of a stable market.

He said that although the construction of housing has slowed in the UK because of difficulties in securing planning permission, the repair and maintenance market was flourishing as more people were refurbishing their homes rather than buying new ones.

In the UK and the rest of Europe, St Gobain aims to expand through acquisition of small to medium-sized distribution companies, to compete with its main rivals – Travis Perkins and Wolseley.

We are now shoulder to shoulder with Wolseley

St Gobain spokesperson

“Travis Perkins is the benchmark in the distribution market in terms of profitability, and we are now shoulder to shoulder with Wolseley,” said the spokesperson.

Overall, the building distribution sector was the largest driver of growth in sales and income.