B&Q owner Kingfisher feels the cold but holds out hope of cash return

The chief executive of the owner of the DIY chain B&Q has lamented the "depressing" wintry weather forecast for the crucial trading period of this week's bank holiday.

But Ian Cheshire yesterday warmed the cockles of shareholders' hearts by raising the prospect of returning cash to them through a special dividend or share buyback, reflecting its strong balance sheet.

He made his comments as Kingfisher, which has 1,025 stores in eight countries, posted a double-digit fall in annual profits. It was hit by last year's summer washout that badly damaged the sales of plants, barbecues and garden furniture at B&Q in the UK, as well as adverse currency movements of the euro and the Polish zloty against sterling.

The peak trading period for DIY retailers is from early April to the end of June, including the three spring bank holidays, and the recent freezing temperatures are set to last until at least Saturday. Mr Cheshire said: "We have got the same depressing forecast as you [for this bank holiday]."

He joked: "If you are a real optimist, we had the wettest summer for 100 years last year and March has been the worst for 50 years so we are clearly on an upward trajectory."

Kingfisher posted pre-tax profits down by 11.4 per cent to £715m over the year to February. Its bottom line shrank in countries including the UK, France, China and Poland but its Russian business grew sales and profits rapidly.

Kingfisher UK and Ireland, which also includes its Screwfix trade format, posted a 13.7 per cent fall in profits to £234m, following a 5.6 per cent decline in underlying sales. The world's third-biggest home improvement group, which also operates the Brico Depot and Castorama chains in France, ended the year with an increased £38m on its books, with no net debt.

Mr Cheshire said the company wanted to maintain a "healthy balance sheet, which is investment grade" but added that it was considering a "share buyback or special dividend".

The timing of discussions with investors is partly dependent on the outcome of a seven-year tax dispute with the French Government worth up to €190m (£162m), with the verdict expected later this year. Mr Cheshire said: "If you are thinking of returning a chunk of cash, it would be a bit odd to have to borrow money to pay off the taxman in France."

Kingfisher increased its full-year dividend by 7 per cent to 9.46p a share.

While B&Q stores in the UK are typically much bigger than Screwfix, its smaller trade format is on track to have more shops than the DIY market leader inside two years.

B&Q opened just one store last year to take its total to 358, and has recently signed four deals to sub-let space to other retailers. But Screwfix introduced 60 to give it 275 shops in the UK and Kingfisher plans another 50 for this year.

Following an online launch in 23 European countries, Mr Cheshire also revealed it plans to launch Screwfix stores – the brand originally started as catalogue ordering business – overseas, but remained tight-lipped on a time frame.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence