DIYboost for owner of B&Q

B&amp;Q owner Kingfisher yesterday beat City forecasts for its third quarter, boosted by a change of strategy in China and a renewed interest in home improvement.<br /><br />The group said that pre-tax profits rose in the 13 weeks to 31 October to &pound;227m, compared to &pound;176m last year, ahead of expectations.<br /><br />Kingfisher said that a revival in the popularity of DIY had offset a slumping property market, boosting like-for-like sales by 5.7 per cent.<br /><br />The retailer, which has also profited from the demise of rival MFI, also said that sales of big-ticket items that have suffered in the recession were also faring well, with sales of kitchen appliances jumping by around 27 per cent. <br /><br />And analysts were cheered by the group&rsquo;s turnaround strategy at its Chinese division, which has been bleeding cash due to an ill-judged and rapid expansion. <br /><br />The group has now closed 20 stores in China, narrowing losses to &pound;7m from &pound;17m the year before. <br /><br />Finance director Kevin O&rsquo;Byrne said the group had slashed its net debt to &pound;0.2bn, a sharp decline from &pound;1.8bn reported for last year.<br /><br />Despite the strong set of numbers, chief executive Ian Cheshire said there was uncertainty over the impact of a general election due by June on the economy, which was clouding the outlook for 2010.