Screwfix star of 'important year' for Kingfisher as profits rise 14.7 per cent to £787m

Surging sales at Screwfix have helped Kingfisher to a 14.7 per cent lift in annual profits

B&Q owner Kingfisher hailed an "important year" as it revealed a 14.7 per cent hike in annual profits thanks to an overhaul of its DIY chain and surging sales at Screwfix.

The group posted underlying pre-tax profits of £787 million for the year to January 31, up from £686 million a year earlier, after seeing B&Q like-for-like sales lift by 3.5 per cent.

But its trade-focused arm Screwfix was once again the star performer, with same-store sales leaping 13.8 per cent higher.

The group said it had finished its B&Q store closure programme, which has seen it shut 65 shops and slash around 3,000 jobs in the UK and Ireland over the last two years.

Kingfisher chief executive Veronique Laury said: "It has been a very productive and important year, a year which has again delivered sales and profit growth."

She added that the group had "learned a lot" and was "aware of the challenges" as she ploughs on with an ambitious five-year turnaround plan.

Kingfisher is also bracing for change in the UK and France, where the group trades as Castorama and Brico Depot.

Ms Laury said: "The EU referendum has created uncertainty for the UK economic outlook and we remain cautious on the outlook for France, especially in light of the forthcoming presidential elections."

Alongside full-year results, the group also said chairman Daniel Bernard would retire in June after eight years in the role.

He will be replaced by Andy Cosslett - a former chief executive of Fitness First and InterContinental Hotels Group - who becomes chairman-designate on April 1.

Kingfisher also revealed a £52 million boost as the weak pound flattered its overseas profits.

The group said its B&Q like-for-like sales benefited from extra trade from closed stores, which added 2.6 per cent of the 3.5 per cent sales rise.

Total B&Q sales fell 3.3 per cent after its store closure programme.

It opened 60 new Screwfix outlets over the year, expanding its chain to 517 and has upped its long-term target to have 700 stores in the UK, from 600 previously.

The Screwfix sales surge helped UK & Ireland retail profits rise 9.9 per cent to £358 million, which offset a 0.3 per cent fall in profits in its French business.

Kingfisher admitted its French businesses under-performed the wider market, with like-for-like sales falling by 2.7 per cent.

On a bottom-line basis, overall group pre-tax profits rose 48.2 per cent to £759 million.

Shares fell nearly 3 per cent after the results, despite being marginally better than expected, according to retail analyst Mark Photiades at Cantor Fitzgerald.

He said: "Encouragingly, progress is being made with the restructuring plan."

But he highlighted risks that "a downturn in consumer spending in the UK and France will impact sales and profitability".

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