Plumber Ferguson delays outlook amid virus uncertainty

Plumbing giant Ferguson has put off confirming its financial outlook for 2020 as the company said the impact of coronavirus was so uncertain it could not guide investors.

The company said it was impossible to asses the impact that Covid-19 would have on its business.

“Given the strength of our first-half results, we had intended to confirm our full-year trading profit outlook for 2020. However, due to the dynamic situation unfolding with Covid-19 it is too early to understand its impact on current trading,” it said in a statement.

It added: “Recent Government actions to contain the spread of Covid-19 and societal reactions, alongside any potential actions we will take to mitigate them are not reflected in existing market forecasts and it is too early to quantify them.”

The company cancelled its usual half-year results presentation, replacing it with a conference call, to prevent further spread of the deadly disease.

The results showed profit before tax of £640 million, down 5.7% on revenue of nearly £11 billion in the six months ending January 31.

Ongoing trading profit, one of the company’s own measures, was up 9.5% to £782 million.

“Our focus has remained on serving our customers and making their projects more successful because they worked with Ferguson. Given the markets we serve remained flat we were pleased with our progress in the first half,” said chief executive Kevin Murphy.

Mr Murphy said that Ferguson is following guidelines from national and international health bodies on how to keep staff safe.

“In response to the outbreak of the coronavirus in recent weeks the company is taking steps to mitigate any potential impacts,” he added.

Shares in the business were down around 14.4%, or 745p to 4,435p in the morning on Tuesday.

Ferguson employs around 35,000 people at more than 2,200 branches around the world.