Kingfisher plots expansion after beating forecasts

Kingfisher beat first-half earnings forecasts, helped by a drive to improve profit margins, and said it was stepping up expansion as rivals struggle in a tough market.

The group, which runs market leader B&Q in Britain as well as Castorama and Brico Depot in France and elsewhere, said profit before tax and one-off items jumped 24 per cent to £439m, topping an average forecast of £409m in a company poll of 14 analysts.

Strong growth in France was complemented by a lift to profit margins from the group's drive to buy more goods centrally, and directly, from cheaper manufacturing centres such as Asia.

That helped lift profits in Britain and Ireland, despite a drop in sales.

Kingfisher, which this week announced an expansion drive in Russia, said it planned to create 1,200 jobs in Britain this year, spending £130m on new stores, particularly for its building trade-focussed Screwfix brand.