Kingfisher falls after caution on French market

SHARES in Kingfisher, Europe’s biggest home improvements retailer, slumped yesterday as it posted third-quarter profit at the lower end of forecasts and cautioned that its markets remained tough, particularly in France where consumer confidence is weak.

The firm said yesterday there was no obvious sign of an imminent improvement in consumer sentiment in France, its most profitable market.

Kingfisher, which runs the B&Q and Screwfix chains in Britain, made a retail profit of £271m in the 13 weeks to 2 November – an increase of 1.7 per cent on a constant-currency basis.

That compared with analyst forecasts in a range of £271m-£285m, with a consensus of £280m.

Total sales rose eight per cent to £2.92bn, with sales at stores open over a year up 1.4 per cent.

In France, where like-for-like sales were flat, retail profit was impacted by a slightly lower gross margin percentage in a more price-promotional environment, Kingfisher said.

Like-for-like sales in the UK & Ireland increased two per cent, driven by a strong performance at Screwfix, which opened its 300th store in the quarter.

Kingfisher saw sales growth in each of its other international markets, including Poland and Germany.

“Looking ahead, we remain ready to capitalise on any improvement in conditions or opportunities as they arise,” said chief executive Ian Cheshire, adding he remained “enthusiastic about our longer-term prospects”.

Shares closed 4.4 per cent lower.