Wolseley, the world’s biggest builders’ merchant, has reported record annual results for the eighth consecutive year, with sales of more than £10bn.

The FTSE-100 company reported on Monday a 29.5% increase in group sales and a 31.2% hike in pre-tax profit for the year ended 31 July 2004 to £598.1m.

The increase in profit was driven by commodity price rises and the housebuilding boom in the UK and US markets.

In the UK, sales were up 11.5% to £2.1bn.

The plumbing and heating businesses were the best performing parts of the UK business, and building materials had a strong second half. The commercial and industrial business remained difficult.

During the period, Wolseley opened in 97 locations in the UK, taking its total number of UK branches to 1513.

Our businesses are performing well and the economic outlook gives us confidence

Charles Banks, Wolseley chief executive

Since the year-end it has also acquired Brooks Group, the Ireland-based timber and builders’ merchant, for *183m (£124.6m).

It has 18 branches across Ireland.

Wolseley’s results were ahead of analysts’ expectations and chief executive Charles Banks was upbeat about the future: “Our businesses are performing well and the economic outlook for the current year gives us confidence going forward,” he said.

Earnings per share were up 32% to 68.15p and the final dividend was increased by 12% to 23.8p. Shares were up 3.5p at 927.5p at the close of trading on Monday.