Véronique Laury to become fifth FTSE 100 female boss as head of B&Q owner Kingfisher

She is replacing chief executive of seven years, Sir Ian Cheshire

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The Independent Online

The FTSE 100 is to get its fifth female boss after B&Q owner Kingfisher today replaced chief executive Sir Ian Cheshire with the head of its struggling French DIY business.

Véronique Laury, of Castorama, is to take charge in January, when she will join the small team of women running blue-chip companies that includes British American Tobacco’s Alison Cooper, easyJet’s Carolyn McCall, Royal Mail’s Moya Greene and Severn Trent’s  Liv Garfield.

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Sir Ian, who has worked at Kingfisher for 11 years and been in charge for seven, will leave the DIY specialist, whose other brands include Screwfix, while its turnaround is in progress.

The shares have fallen 28 per cent since April, and today it reported first-half pre-tax profits down 6.5 per cent with underlying sales up just 1.8 per cent.

However, chairman Daniel Bernard said Sir Ian had “transformed Kingfisher into a stronger business” and during his tenure “Kingfisher’s reported sales grew 23 per cent, adjusted profit before tax doubled and Kingfisher’s market capitalisation increased by 112 per cent to £3.8 billion”.

Sir Ian said he could easily have stayed another two years but various projects, including stepping up its online operations and the consolidation of its French business after the €275 million (£220 million) purchase of France’s number two DIY chain Mr Bricolage, meant the firm was “now in a five-year cycle. I have been chief executive for seven years but I am not staying for 12 years.” He added: “Now is the right time to hand over to a new leader.”

Sir Ian, who has worked on many government task forces, said he had not had time to think about his next job but will look at options this year.

The UK business has performed well, led by a 12 per cent sales rise at its trade business Screwfix. An improvement in the UK housing market and consumer sentiment helped B&Q, which cut prices on thousands of products to compete with the growth in the discount sector. B&Q like-for-like sales rose 3.2 cent and UK and Ireland sales were up 4.4 cent.

 

Kingfisher has experienced dire trading in France but profits were flat for the half year and, adjusting for foreign exchange rates, like-for-like sales were down 0.8 cent.

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Sir Ian said its share buyback plan will recommence now its succession has been announced. It intends another £65 million of buybacks.

The shares lifted 3 cent today to 316.7p.

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