Builders merchant Travis Perkins is keeping an eye on the continental European market with a long-term aim of making an acquisition to increase profits.

Chief executive Frank McKay believes France is the best country for a takeover because potential profit margins are higher than elsewhere.

Mr McKay, who speaks fluent French, hinted that an independent company could make the best target for gaining a foothold in a region.

  He said: “We have a stated strategy. We make no secret of the fact that France is the most attractive because it has the least consolidation and operating margins are higher than in other countries.”

However, he said the UK remains the company’s first priority and so far 20 new branches have been opened this year.