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BSS remains sanguine in face of market gloom

The BSS Group said the strength of the repair and maintenance market means it is set to beat market expectations when it announces its annual results in May.


The specialist distributor of heating, ventilation and other industrial supplies released an upbeat trading statement earlier this week, despite the gloom surrounding the house building market.


The statement read: “Trading across all divisions remains positive, and following a particularly strong final quarter, the Board is confident that revenue and earnings for the full year will be slightly ahead of market expectations.”


Gavin Slark, BSS Group chief executive, said the downturn in the housing market had not had a major impact on the company: “If you look at the whole of the repair and maintenance market, it is very robust.


“We have to listen to what our customers are telling us and they are saying there is a lot of work out there and they have good order books for the medium and long term.


“Everyone gets hung up on residential new build, but that is only five per cent of the Group’s turnover. The markets which we mainly operate in are still fairly buoyant.


“If you are looking at the medium and long term of repair and maintenance it is very positive and I think we have to take a great deal of comfort and confidence from that.”


BSS Group purchased industrial power tools and protective clothing specialist Buck and Hickman in March 2007 for £27 million and Birchwood Products for £18.4m in March 2008.


Mr Slark said the initial expectation from Buck and Hickman in its first year was “earning neutral”, but he declined to comment on their actual contribution to the group ahead of May’s results announcement.


Andrew Brown, analyst at Panmure Gordon, said there was a lot of concern about the new build market and the housing market which made the BSS Group’s focus on repair and maintenance more attractive to investors.


“BSS works more in repair, maintenance, refurbishment and non-discretionary spending areas which means they should continue performing well. They have also enhanced their offering through specialist products, tooling and branch expansion.


“This is a group which is a lot smaller than Wolseley and Travis Perkins, but its management has a clear growth path at the moment.


“The Buckman and Hickman deal looks like a good one as it was underperforming with its previous owners.”


The announcement of the Group's preliminary results for the year ending 31 March 2008 will be on Wednesday 28 May.