UPDATE 2-CRH sees better H2 after harsh winter hits sales

* Sales down 14 pct in first 4 mos due to harsh weather

* Expects H2 earnings ahead of H2 2009

* Shares down 3.15 percent

(Adds more detail, share price, analyst comment)

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN, May 5 (BestGrowthStock) – Irish building materials group CRH
(CRH.I: ) said it expected a year-on-year rise in second half core
earnings after reporting exceptionally harsh winter weather had
sent sales down around 14 percent in the first four months of
the year.

CRH, the leading asphalt producer in the United States, said
positive economic growth indicators in the U.S. and the benefits
from cost cutting would positively impact second-half earnings,
following an expected high-teen percentage decline in the
traditionally weaker first half.

“With this background and with ongoing improvements in the
rate of cumulative sales declines, we expect that EBITDA
(earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation)
in the seasonally more important second half will be ahead of
last year,” the Dublin-based group said in a statement.

Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S has a consensus figure of 1.98
billion euros for EBITDA for the full year, up 10 percent on
2009.

CRH said in March the outlook was the least certain it had
been for 15 to 20 years when posting a 53 percent fall in 2009
profit in March.

The harsh winter also hit first-quarter sales at the world’s
largest cement maker Lafarge (LAFP.PA: ) while its main rival
Holcim (HOLN.VX: ) said the outlook for Europe and North America
was still uncertain as a result. [ID:nLDE64405D] [ID:nLDE6420OB]

Shares in the group, which has streaked past Ireland’s
battered banks to become the country’s biggest company by market
value and now makes up about a third of the entire stock
exchange, were down 3.15 percent at 19.40 euros by 0805 GMT.

CRH, which is the No. 3 producer of aggregates — a category
of building materials — in the U.S., said greater activity
under the U.S. government’s stimulus programme had resulted in a
stronger order backlog than at the same point in 2009.

The group, which broadly splits its revenue between Europe
and the United States, said the U.S. housing market seemed close
to bottom but news on the fiscal deficits in European economies
continued to be mixed.

“Overall, the figures are slightly behind our expectations
but the upside talked about in terms of U.S. materials allows us
to leave our forecasts unchanged,” Robert Eason, an analyst at
GoodBody Stockbrokers wrote in a note.

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(Editing by Karen Foster)

UPDATE 2-CRH sees better H2 after harsh winter hits sales