B&Q owner sees shares fall by 6%

Shares in Kingfisher, Europe’s biggest home improvements retailer, fell 6% yesterday as pressure on profit margins and a smaller-than-expected sales boost from warmer weather pushed first- quarter earnings below forecasts.

B&Q owner sees shares fall by 6%

The owner of B&Q in Britain and Ireland and Castorama and Brico Depot in France, said that underlying operating profit for the 13 weeks to May 3 grew 20% to £142m (€174m). Results a year ago were depressed by bad weather across much of Europe.

“The group like-for-like sales increase was only 6%, rather than the hoped for 7% to 8%, with B&Q in the UK just under 10% like-for-like, which ought to have been better, given very weak comparatives and the better weather/ late Easter impact,” retail analyst Nick Bubb said.

While not as high as hoped, underlying sales grew 10.1% in the UK and Ireland. Sales at trade-focused Screwfix were strong and were up 9.7% at B&Q, its best performance in a decade, as sales of barbecues shot up 42% and consumers improved their gardens.

Kingfisher’s profits outpaced sales growth because its low variable costs meant more of the additional sales fed through to its bottom line.

The group’s CEO, Ian Cheshire, called the first-quarter performance a strong start to the year but warned that sales growth in its second quarter would be much tougher as it comes up against strong year-earlier figures.

He said the UK gross margin movement was purely down to the seasonal mix of its products and “nothing to get worried about”.

In France, where Kingfisher makes half of its profits, like-for-like sales growth came in below expectations at 1.6%, with better weather only easing the impact of soft underlying markets caused by continued weak consumer confidence.

The group, which has 1,134 stores in nine countries, said underlying sales rose 6.8% in its international division, driven by Poland and Russia.

— Reuters

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