Kingfisher in profit boost

B&Q owner Kingfisher yesterday forecast a 20 per cent rise in annual profits after strong overseas growth offset weak trading in the UK.

The group said it expects adjusted pre-tax profits for the year ending last month to be at the top end of City expectations at £672m.

Strong sales in countries such as Poland and Russia helped the company which owns the Bric Depot and Castorama chains. The UK and Ireland division remained under pressure, despite like-for-like sales at B&Q showing a decline of 0.3 per cent in the 13 weeks to 29 January. That was better than the 5.1 per cent drop seen in the previous quarter. Total sales in UK stores were up 0.1 per cent to £835m.

Its building supplies arm Screwfix also put in a stronger performance, with sales up 5.4 per cent to £119m after it introduced new ranges.

Chief executive Ian Cheshire was cautious about B&Q’s outlook for the current financial year following the increase in VAT to 20 per cent from 17.5 per cent in January.

He said: “We are not assuming any help from a buoyant market in the UK. It’s more about trying to gain market share than expecting the market to be in recovery.” But the boss was upbeat about the possibility of a sales boost inspired by the royal wedding bank holiday. People could actually do a really decent project over that period. We’re certainly going to gear up on the gardening and outdoor leisure fronts.”

He said the group had just launched a set of two royal wedding gnomes decked in Union Jack hats and wedding outfits for £20. Kingfisher, with over 840 stores in eight countries, has been cutting costs to cope with tough trading conditions.