May 31, 2012 / 6:36 AM / 6 years ago

Kingfisher sales drop as weather, forex hurt

LONDON (Reuters) - Kingfisher (KGF.L), Europe’s biggest home improvements retailer, posted a steep fall in first quarter profit, hurt by a weakening euro and April’s torrential rain which put British and French shoppers off buying seasonal ranges.

The firm, which runs the market-leading B&Q chain in Britain as well as Castorama and Brico Depot in France and elsewhere, also faced tough comparisons with a period of buoyant trading last year when sales were boosted by fine spring weather.

Kingfisher, with about 950 stores in eight countries in Europe and Asia, said on Thursday its retail profit fell 8.6 percent to 160 million pounds ($248.5 million) in the three months to April 30.

That puts it at the bottom end of analyst forecasts which ranged between 160-165 million pounds, according to a company poll.

The outcome also reflected the currency impact of a weaker euro and Polish zloty on conversion into sterling.

Even excluding the impact of foreign exchange fluctuations, sales at stores open over a year fell 4.8 percent year-on-year. The biggest drag was in the UK and Ireland where sales dropped 10.4 percent on a like-for-like basis.

The drop in the UK and Ireland compares to a fourth quarter decline of 2.5 percent and analysts’ consensus expectations of a fall of 10 percent.

First quarter like-for-like sales at Castorama France fell 0.8 percent and were up 2.4 percent at Brico Depot France stores, versus rises of 2.9 percent and 5.7 percent respectively in the previous quarter.

    Many European retailers are suffering as disposable incomes are squeezed by rising prices, muted wages growth and government austerity measures, and as shoppers fret over the implications of the euro zone debt crisis.

    Kingfisher, the world’s No. 3 home improvements retailer behind U.S. groups Lowe’s (LOW.N) and Home Depot (HD.N), has generally performed better than most, offsetting weak demand in many of its markets with a drive to improve profitability by buying more goods centrally, and directly, from cheaper manufacturing centers like China.

    In March the firm posted a 20 percent rise in 2011/12 profit.

    ($1 = 0.6438 British pounds)

    Reporting by Paul Hoskins and James Davey; editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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