Building materials supplier Wolseley, the construction sector’s biggest quoted company, said this week that it had appointed Chip Hornsby to replace Charlie Banks as chief executive next summer.
Hornsby, head of the North American business, has been at the FTSE-100 company for 27 years. He takes over in August when Banks retires.
Hornsby joined the board in 2001, the same year that Banks joined as chief executive. He said he would continue Banks’ work and try to penetrate other international markets.
He will start the top job at a time when the company is in a strong financial position. Wolseley’s aggressive strategy, aiming for double-digit growth in profit and turnover, has largely been achieved through acquisition. At the same time as it announced Hornsby’s appointment on Monday, Wolseley reported a 16% increase in pre-tax profit to £648m for the year to 31 July. Turnover rose 11% to £11.3bn.
In the UK Banks conceded that the market did “slow down some” but said investment in infrastructure had paid dividends, with trading profit rising more than 11% and sales increasing 11.7% to £2.4bn.
Despite the weakened UK housing market Banks said the fundamentals – low unemployment and interest rates – were still good, and therefore it was unlikely to get any worse.
Banks said: “Repairs, maintenance and improvements [Wolseley’s biggest business in the UK] spending slowed in the second half of the year in response to weaker consumer confidence.
“Government spending, feeding through into construction, remains bright and the industrial sector continues to improve.”
During the year Wolseley opened 27 branches in the UK and Ireland, taking it to a total of 1570.
Banks said he was ready to retire because he felt that Hornsby was the right person to take over: “I’ve worked with him for more than 25 years and I feel the company will be in good hands. I’ll be 65 and able to slow down.
“The pace over the past 17 years has been pretty hectic.”
Despite the good results, shares in Wolseley dropped 1.5% or 18p to 1156p on Monday.