Revenue of the ongoing businesses was 5.4% ahead of 2011, with trading profit 10.4% ahead of last year. While there was some weakness in continental Europe, the U.K. market enjoyed a recovery and there was good growth in the U.S. and Canada.
Headline earnings per share rose 17.8% to 168.4 pence, and sales of businesses enabled net debt to be reduced by £568 million, leading to net cash generation of £45 million. As a result, the proposed final dividend will be 40 pence per share -- 33.3% up on last year -- and £350 million will be returned to shareholders via a special dividend. A share consolidation is also planned, with details to come at November's AGM.
Ian Meakins, chief executive, commented:
Demand across our markets remains mixed and the economic outlook continues to be uncertain. Revenue growth rates in the new financial year have been similar to the fourth quarter of last year. We will continue to reduce our cost base to protect profitability but also to make investments in our businesses that will improve the quality of our operations and generate growth in the future. While we remain cautious about the outlook for our markets, we are confident that Wolseley will make good progress in the year ahead.
With the sizable hike in the dividend, Wolseley will be yielding around 2.25% this year. Better still, another 4.5% will come from the special dividend expected in December. While the special dividend is obviously not recurring, it's a good indication of the company's commitment to reward shareholders.
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Jon Wallis doesn't own shares in Wolseley. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.