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.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home