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Keller Group sees U.S. budget cuts slowing down growth

By Abhirup Roy

(Reuters) - British construction company Keller Group Plc's full-year profit nearly doubled as home building picked up in the United States, but the company said it expected spending cuts to slow down growth in the key market.

There is uncertainty in the U.S. construction market as a second round of budget cuts, or "sequestration", hit the country's economy last week.

"I would not expect the revenue growth (in North America) to be as strong as it was in 2012 or 2011," Keller Chief Executive Justin Atkinson said.

Revenue from the company's North American business, which accounted for a little less than half of Keller's 2012 revenue, increased 23.5 percent last year and 10.8 percent in 2011.

Keller's profit before tax jumped to 43.5 million pounds ($65.3 million) in 2012 from 21.9 million pounds a year earlier.

Revenue increased 14 percent to 1.32 billion pounds. Revenue from its North American business rose to 581.9 million pounds from 471.1 million a year earlier.

Spending on private residential projects in the United States increased 2.2 percent in December, a reflection of the country's improving housing market.

Revenue from EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) fell to 358.6 million pounds from 384.8 million, while operating margin slipped to 0.6 percent from 2.2 percent.

Atkinson said he expected the European business to "continue to struggle", hurt by austerity measures by several governments.

Keller's shares, which have risen about 80 percent in the past year, were up 1.8 percent at 759.5 pence on the London Stock Exchange at 1219 GMT.

($1 = 0.6662 British pounds)

(Reporting By Abhirup Roy in Bangalore; Editing by Ted Kerr and Joyjeet Das)

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