CRH chief steps down as it eyes growth in US

BUILDING materials group CRH said yesterday that its chief executive is to stand down, as the construction company looks towards growth in North America.

Myles Lee will retire from the FTSE firm at the end of this year in a widely-expected move, following a five-year tenure.

CRH said yesterday that the outlook for the US market – where it is the main producer of asphalt for highway construction – was promising.

Over the full year, sales for North America were up 15 per cent, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation climbed 12 per cent to €850m (£733m).

Lee told City A.M. yesterday that there was a “good pipeline of opportunities” in North America.

Eastern Europe – countries such as Poland and the Ukraine – will be a key focus this year, Lee said, adding that CRH was also looking for an entry point into Russia.

Lee’s retirement comes as CRH announced a three per cent drop in full-year operating profit.

Operating profit came in at €845m for the full year, down from €871m over 2011, hurt by the weak European economy.

Dublin-based CRH has weathered the global construction downturn better than many of its peers by streamlining costs, and last year delivered €166m of savings. Further cost reductions of around €300m are also planned for the period leading up to 2015.