B&Q and Screwfix owner sees surprise rise in annual profit

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Europe’s largest home improvement retailer Kingfisher beat forecasts with a 0.3 per cent rise in annual profit, though it said it remained cautious on the outlook for France, its most profitable market.

The firm, which trades as B&Q and Screwfix in Britain and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said it made an underlying pre-tax profit of £686m in the year to January 31.

That compares with analysts’ average forecast of £667m and £684m made in the 2014-15 year.

Group sales rose 3.8 per cent on a constant currency basis to £10.3bn, with sales in France up 1.2 per cent and sales in the UK & Ireland up 5.6 per cent.

Véronique Laury, chief executive of Kingfisher, said: “This has been a very productive and important year. We have delivered a good ‘business as usual’ result with both sales and profit growth in constant currencies, driven by our performance in Poland and the UK, driven largely by Screwfix, and a stable performance in France.”

Karen Witts, chief financial officer at Kingfisher, said: “In the short term, the fundamentals of the UK economic backdrop remain positive, although we remain cautious on the outlook for France.

“The outlook for the wider global economy remains uncertain, and the impact of the outcome of the UK EU referendum is unknown.”

In January, Ms Laury announced a strategy to boost annual profit by £500m from 2021 that will cost £800m over five years to deliver.

She said the firm would return £600m to shareholders over the next three years through share buybacks.

Her plans include improving its e-commerce capabilities and improving efficiency.

Shares in Kingfisher have risen by 7 per cent over the last three months but are down 6 per cent year-on-year. They closed at 352.5p on Tuesday, valuing the business at about £8bn.