Wolseley plc

Wolseley plc
Public limited company
Traded as LSE: WOS
Industry Building materials
Founded 1887 (1887)
Headquarters Theale, Nr. Reading, United Kingdom
Key people
Gareth Davis
John Martin
Revenue £13,332 million (2015)[1]
£560 million (2015)[1]
£213 million (2015)[1]
Number of employees
39,000 (2016)[2]
Website www.wolseley.com

Wolseley plc is a multinational building materials distribution company headquartered in Zug, Switzerland. It is the world's largest heating and plumbing distributor to the professional market and has approximately 47,000 employees across 25 countries.[3] Its brands include Ferguson, Pipe Centre, Plumb & Parts Centre and Wolseley.[4]

Wolseley is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.


The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company Limited

Wolseley plc was incorporated in London in 1887 as a listed public company with the name The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company Limited to fund and exploit the commercial potential of the sheep shearing machinery invented by Frederick York Wolseley (1837-1899). Its board of directors were among the most prominent businessmen of Australia and the size of its capitalization placed it among the more important new issues of that year. From the beginning because machinery sales were highly seasonal efforts were made to diversify operations beyond the sheep shearing machinery. Wolseley with his Australian pastoral interests resigned because of ill-health in 1894.[5]

Lord Austin and his Wolseley cars, chairman of this company 1911-1933

Herbert Austin, who had worked on Wolseley's shearing machinery development in Melbourne Australia from 1887, when he was aged just 20, was appointed its manager and received a share of its equity.[5]

Seeking other suitable products Austin designed his first car in 1896 and for the next four years continued to develop and improve his designs. Though the board did allow Austin to purchase some machinery to build cars they decided around 1900 it was unlikely to be a profitable industry. In 1901 Wolseley's embryo car business was acquired by Vickers, Sons and Maxim.[5] They took Herbert Austin as well as the Wolseley name. This new business belonged to a company incorporated with the name The Wolseley Tool & Motor Car Company Limited, later Wolseley Motors Limited. Wholly owned by Vickers it had no tie at all with Wolseley SSMC as Wolseley plc was then known.

Though he left Wolseley SSMC in 1901 and a few years later founded his own Austin Motor Company Herbert Austin maintained his lifetime close interest in its progress and was to become Wolseley's chairman of the board and served in that post from 1911 until his retirement when aged 67 in 1933.

Building supplies business

In 1960 Wolseley bought Nu-Way Heating Limited which was the beginning of its transformation into a heating and building supplies business.[6] Nu-Way's spare parts components business developed into OBC (Oil Burner Components). In 1965 Wolseley purchased Granville Controls and Yorkshire Heating Supplies to complement OBC's product range.[6] From 1973 the products of these three manufacturing businesses were sold through Wolseley-Hughes Merchants, which was founded in that year.[6] It later changed its name to Wolseley Centres.[6]

Wolseley continued to expand by purchasing both manufacturing and distribution businesses. In 1982 it entered the United States market by acquiring Ferguson Enterprises, a distributor of plumbing supplies with around 50 branches on the East Coast of the United States.[6] In 1984 some of the manufacturing businesses were sold off, and since that time Wolseley has been mainly a distribution business.[6] Further acquisitions in the UK and U.S. followed regularly and in 1992 Wolseley entered the Continental European market for the first time by buying a French plumbing supplies business called Brossette.[6] Many more acquisitions of distribution businesses followed, and in 2000 Wolseley sold most of its remaining manufacturing businesses to Cinven for £215 million.[6]

In July 2008, following the effects of the credit crunch, Wolseley issued a profit warning and announced 6,000 job losses.[7]

In July 2011, Wolseley announced the sale of Build Center and Brossete to Saint-Gobain.[8][9]

In April 2015, Wolseley announced the sale of ISB (Importation et Solution Bois) Group.[10]

In November 2015, OpenGate Capital entered into an exclusivity agreement with Wolseley plc to acquire Bois & Matériaux.[11]


Wolseley is organised geographically:[12]

Wolseley operates in total of 25 countries around the world, including:[13]

  • UK
  • France (leaving country)
  • Canada
  • The Netherlands
  • Switzerland
  • Austria

  • Czech Republic
  • Belgium
  • Luxembourg
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • Norway

  • Poland
  • Panama
  • Puerto Rico
  • Trinidad & Tobago
  • Mexico
  • Barbados
  • USA

Key people

Key people are:[14]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Annual Report 2015" (PDF). Wolseley plc. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  2. "Careers". Wolseley plc. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  3. "Wolseley gives hope to economic recovery with 4pc rise in revenues". The Telegraph. 8 December 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  4. "Our businesses". Wolseley plc. Retrieved 30 August 2010.
  5. 1 2 3 Roy Church, ‘Austin, Herbert, Baron Austin (1866–1941)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Company history". Wolseley plc. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  7. "contractjournal.com". contractjournal.com. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  8. "Wolseley agrees to sell Build Center to Saint Gobain". BBC. 25 July 2011. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  9. "Wolseley agrees to sell Brossette to Saint Gobain". Batirama. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  10. "Wolseley agrees to sell ISB".
  11. "OpenGate Capital enters into exclusivity with Wolseley plc for the Acquisition of Bois & Matériaux".
  12. "Wolseley - Our businesses - Overview". wolseley.com. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  13. "Wolseley - About us". wolseley.com. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  14. Wolseley: Management Team
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