Having been adversely affected by weak trading conditions in Mainland Europe and the UK RMI market, together with a significant deterioration in the Euro, we were disappointed in the Group's 2015 performance.
Group sales from continuing operations increased by 3.7% in constant currency but were down 1.4% in Sterling. With acquisitions contributing 3.4% to revenue growth, on a like-for-like ("LFL") basis, sales were marginally ahead, by 0.3%.
Underlying profit before tax decreased by 11.8% to £87.4m (2014: £99.1m), although on a constant currency basis was only down by 7.0%.
We continue to make good progress on our Strategic Initiatives to improve business performance, delivering an incremental net benefit after costs of £12.6m in 2015, mainly sourced from procurement.
SIG's post-tax Return on Capital Employed ("ROCE"), our key financial metric, decreased by 110bps to 9.3% (2014: 10.4%) in 2015 mainly due to weaker trading conditions.
Going forward SIG remains committed to increasing its returns on capital. As well as taking a disciplined approach to its capital management, SIG seeks to achieve this target through further improvements in its gross and operating margins.
Historically SIG's businesses have tended to operate independently of one another, like a loose federation. In addition, following a period of underspend during the economic downturn, we also needed to reinvest in our asset base and people.
To address these challenges, and improve the way we work, two years ago the Group launched its Stronger Together culture change programme with the aim of making SIG's whole greater than the sum of the parts.
This programme also underpins the delivery of our Strategic Initiatives to improve business performance where we have targeted £30m of net savings to be achieved by 2016.
By working together more and better leveraging our buying power and Group synergies, we have delivered a total cumulative net saving of £22.7m from the Strategic Initiatives since the programme began, and are well ahead of our original schedule.
However, there is more to do and we are targeting to achieve at least another £10m incremental net benefit from the Strategic Initiatives in 2016.
This year the Group continues to expect good growth in the UK new build construction market, primarily driven by the residential segment. Lead indicators also suggest that demand should pick up in the UK RMI sector as 2016 progresses.
In Mainland Europe, while the trajectory of any recovery at this stage remains uncertain, trading conditions in France have improved, with the housing market stabilising and a return to growth for SIG in Q4 2015.
Following an encouraging start to the year, with positive LFLs in both the UK & Ireland and Mainland Europe, the scope for further cost savings and growth opportunities within the Group mean that it expects to make progress in 2016.