Wolseley will close branches, cut jobs at Stock

Wolseley PLC, the Reading, England-based parent of Stock Building Supply, has announced it will close 24 branches and cut 370 jobs at Stock because of a lack of improvement in the U.S. housing market. The company had already closed 22 branches and eliminated 4,500 jobs at Stock.

"The group has reacted swiftly and decisively to the difficult conditions in the U.S. housing market and will continue to pursue its strategy to create competitive advantage,' said Chip Hornsby, CEO of Wolseley.

The company has been doubly hit by the U.S. housing market and lower lumber prices. According to Wolseley's 11-month trading statement with the London Stock Exchange, U.S. prices for lumber have fallen 21 percent and prices for structural panels have fallen 27 percent.

However, the company said while the market for new homes ncontinues to be challenging,i the market for repairs, maintenance and improvement, as well as commercial and industrial sales, have provided opportunities for growth.

Still, while trends in Europe and the U.K. have been positive, nthere are no signs of any upturn in the U.S. housing market, the company said.

Stock's remaining branch network will comprise 287 branches across 33 states, the parent company said. Wolseley had 2006 sales of more than $25 billion.

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