Kesa going like a Comet in France, but not UK

Kesa Electricals, home to Comet in the UK, signalled a tentative upturn in its crucial French market yesterday as it reported its first set of results since its demerger from Kingfisher two months ago.

The group, which relies on the Continent for four-fifths of its retail profit, reported an "encouraging start" to its second half after a dismal few months. Jean-Noël Labroue, the chief executive, said like-for-like sales were "back to positive growth" in the past few weeks after being negative in its first quarter and flat in the second. However, he warned: "It's too early to say we are facing a sustained market recovery."

Kesa blamed negative publicity surrounding the competition inquiry into sales of extended warranties for flat sales at Comet, adding the business was up against tough comparatives last year when the football World Cup boosted sales of televisions.It said the supermarkets' push into non-food products had continued to hit sales of its cheapest items such as DVD and video machines. Comet has lost less than 1 per cent market share to the supermarket groups but it has gained share in areas such as white goods and multimedia.

Group profits before interest and tax for the half-year to 2 August rose by 33 per cent to £60m, benefitting from a €15.3m (£10.7m) rebate from French competition authorities after successfully appealing a fine.

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