Kingfisher beats forecasts as profit edges higher

B&Q owner made an underlying pretax profit of £686 million last year

Kingfisher, Europe's largest home improvement retailer, 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 Ireland and Britain and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said on Wednesday it made an underlying pretax profit of £686 million in the year to January 31st.

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

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

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

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

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

She said the firm would return £600 million 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 352.5 pence on Tuesday, valuing the business at about £8 billion.