Building materials group CRH extended its sharebuy programme after reporting a 'positive' start to the year as first-quarter sales volumes benefited from mild weather conditions. 'In light of our strong balance sheet and cash generation, the Board is proposing to continue our share buyback programme with a further tranche of up to €350m to be completed before the group's interim results announcement in August 2019,' CRH said. Group sales rose 7% for the first quarter, ahead of the same period last year, supported by mild weather conditions and good momentum across most of our major markets, the company said. Sales growth was also supported by pricing progress across all major product lines. Group earnings (EBITDA), for the first half of the year, was expected to be in excess of €1.5bn, above the €1.13bn a year earlier, reflecting a mid-single digit percentage increase on a like-for-like basis with a good contribution from acquisition activity, the company said. Year-to-date in 2019, the group spent about €0.2bn on 16 bolt-on acquisitions and investments. With normal weather patterns and in the absence of any major market dislocations, like-for-like EBITDA in the second half of the year is also anticipated to be ahead of the second half of 2018, the company said. But the company said that despite the good start to the year in Europe materials and expectations for growth in the second half to be ahead of last year, it anticipated that the 'strong rate of organic sales growth experienced in the first quarter is likely to moderate.' 'In Building Products, we expect growth in the second half across all business segments in Europe and the US.' 'Against this backdrop and while maintaining a relentless focus on progressing our profit improvement programme, we expect like-for-like EBITDA in the second half of 2019 to be ahead of the second half of 2018 (H2 2018: €2.24 billion).'
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