Wolseley, the world\'s biggest distributor of plumbing and heating products, posted a 79-percent slump in annual net profits on Tuesday on exceptional charges but still found a way to pay a special dividend. Profit after tax tumbled to £57 million ($92 million, 71 million euros) in the 12 months to the end of July from £271 million in 2010/11, Wolseley said in a statement. The group said earnings were hit by impairment charges of £353 million relating to acquisitions between 2003 and 2007. Revenues grew 5.4 percent to £12.71 billion in 2011/12, while the company announced a special dividend of £350 million to reflect the group\'s underlying financial strength. The special payout was in addition to an annual dividend of 60 pence per share, up a third compared with the previous financial year. Wolseley chief executive Ian Meakins said the group would continue to reduce its cost base \"to protect profitability but also to make investments in our businesses that will improve the quality of our operations and generate growth in the future.\" He added in the statement: \"Whilst we remain cautious about the outlook for our markets, we are confident that Wolseley will make good progress in the year ahead.\" Wolseley repeated an announcement in July that it was exploring \"strategic options\" for its French business amid difficult trading conditions in Europe.