- Builders' merchant Travis Perkins said it had suspended its dividend and paused the planned demerger of its Wickes DIY chain, citing the spreading coronavirus.

The company said its trading performance so far in 2020 had been as expected, with sales up 2.4% in the year to date.

"However, due to the rapidly evolving situation and the dynamic UK government response to the impact of COVID-19, the group expects the trading environment to change quickly and materially in the coming weeks,' it added.

The company's final dividend payment for 2019 of 33p per share had been suspended.

Travis Perkins said it was too early to tell when it could re-start the demerger process.

'The intent to demerge remains unchanged, and we believe that we are in an advanced state of preparedness and would hope to be able to move forward swiftly when it is appropriate to do so,' it said.

The company said it had 'significant liquidity headroom' with £185m of cash on deposit at 19 March, plus an undrawn revolving credit facility of £400m.

Cost cutting measure would be applied, as would a reduction in capital expenditures, should sales slump, it added.

'Our highest priority is the health and safety of our colleagues, customers, suppliers and all other stakeholders, and we have taken decisive action to mitigate the risks we are facing as a business, and implementing contingency plans across the group,' chief executive Nick Roberts said.

'We are absolutely committed to fulfilling the essential role we play in the UK construction industry supply chain in keeping the UK dry, warm, maintained and operational; providing materials, working capital funding and support for our trade customers, large and small.'

'Whilst there is unprecedented uncertainty on how the virus outbreak will directly impact our markets and our businesses, we enter this period from a position of strength and security, with a strong balance sheet and access to significant committed liquidity.'

Story provided by