Belfast Telegraph

Kingfisher sees off EU fears with 10.6% surge in profits

Powerful performance by Screwfix boosts B&Q owner

By Ravender Sembhy

B&Q owner Kingfisher has reported a rise in first-half profits following a "productive" six months, adding that there has been no clear evidence of a Brexit-induced slowdown in demand.

Pre-tax profits at the group, which also owns Screwfix, increased 10.6% to £427m during the period.

Like-for-like sales grew 3.3% across the company, driven by another strong performance by Screwfix, where comparable sales rocketed 14.7%. B&Q's like-for-like sales rose 4.6%.

Group sales also grew by 2.7% to £5.75bn on a constant currency basis.

The company has five B&Q stores in Northern Ireland, after closing four around the province.

However, it recently confirmed that it would be keeping open its Sprucefield store, despite earlier planning to shut it down alongside branches on the Boucher Road in Belfast and in Ballymena, Craigavon and Londonderry.

It also has stores in Holywood Exchange, Newtownabbey, Newry and Coleraine.

The company additionally has nine branches of its trade outlet Screwfix around Northern Ireland.

Chief executive Veronique Laury said: "It has been a productive first half.

"We have delivered a good 'business as usual' result with both sales and profit growth.

"In the UK, the EU referendum has created uncertainty for the economic outlook, even though there has been no clear evidence of an impact on demand so far on our businesses. In France we remain cautious on the short-term outlook."

In France, where it trades as Castorama, Kingfisher has been hit by industrial action and wet weather, and the firm said it remained cautious on the country's short-term outlook.

George Salmon, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, added: "So far this year, the French businesses have disappointed, but the group's UK performance is strong and momentum is building in other international markets, particularly Poland. In the longer term, however, it is the relative success of Kingfisher's own DIY improvement plans that will dictate the group's future."

As part of her revival plans, Ms Laury is aiming to boost profits by £500m a year by 2021.

B&Q announced in July that it would be keeping its Sprucefield store open - although the closures of Craigavon, Londonderry, Ballymena and Boucher Road went ahead.

A spokesman said: "In 2015, we announced that B&Q is reshaping our store network to ensure that our estate reflects changing consumer needs and behaviours, and announced a number of store closures.

"Since this announcement, we have continued to review our plans and can confirm that we have let our 72 employees at B&Q Sprucefield know that their store will no longer be closing.

"We have a fantastic team at our Sprucefield store and their passion to serve our customers well will help us to now grow our business in Sprucefield.

"We look forward to meeting our local community's DIY needs in the future."

Belfast Telegraph