Pre-tax profit at Kingfisher - Europe's largest home improvement retailer - was£178.5 million, down 29 per cent on last year, but the fall was smaller than the 35 per cent to 45 per cent forecast by analysts. Total sales at B&Q dropped 4.4 per cent to£2 billion, down 5.5 per cent like-for-like.
Kingfisher blamed difficult trading in the UK home improvement market, although Kingfisher group chief executive Gerry Murphy said he was encouraged by the progress being made by management. He added: 'Although there are signs of stabilisation in the UK, we expect our major markets here and in France to remain challenging for the balance of the year.'
Group sales rose 6 per cent to£4.3 billion in the six-month period to July 29. Sales outside the UK were up 16 per cent during the period. In France, Brico Depot and Castorama sales rose 7.8 per cent to£1.5 billion, up 1.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis. The group revealed plans to open 15 Castorama stores in new locations.
Sales for the rest of Europe, including Poland Italy and Spain, jumped 27.7 per cent to£473.4 million, rising 9.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis.
Like-for-like sales at B&Q Asia, which includes B&Q China, B&Q Taiwan and B&Q Home in South Korea, rose by 11 per cent, up 74 per cent overall to£209 million.