LONDON-Kingfisher, the biggest European home-improvements retailer, has posted a huge drop in pre-tax profits during its first quarter, as a continued poor performance in Britain offset success abroad.
Kingfisher said that so-called retail profit -- earnings before tax, exceptional items and other costs -- plunged 45.4 percent to 68.4 million pounds during the 13 weeks that ended April 29, compared with the same period a year earlier.
Analysts had forecast retail profit of between 60 and 70 million pounds.
Total revenue fell 2.0 percent to 2.020 billion pounds during the first quarter.
"Kingfishers first quarter again featured solid international performances and a very weak UK market," chief executive Gerry Murphy said in the earnings statement.
Kingfisher said that its British retail outlets, including B and Q, suffered a 70.3-percent plunge in retail profit to 21.9 million pounds during the first quarter.
"The UK home improvement market has continued to be very tough in 2006," Murphy said Wednesday.
"The first two months of the quarter were particularly weak as persistent cold weather in Europe delayed the start of the key garden and outdoor season and a major fire temporarily disrupted B and Q's kitchen deliveries," he added.
In France, where Kingfisher owns the Castorama and Brico Depot chains, first-quarter retail profit was unchanged at 40.2 million pounds, while sales rose 1.7 percent to 701 million pounds.
Across the group's operations in the rest of Europe, retail profit increased 11.1 percent to 14 million pounds on sales up 10.2 percent to 206 million pounds.
In Asia, where Kingfisher owns B and Q China and B and Q Taiwan, sales jumped 11.8 percent to 84 million pounds.
Kingfisher is world's third largest home-improvement retailer, with more than 660 stores in 11 countries.
(Photo source:AFP/A Castorama home-improvement store in Paris. Kingfisher -- which owns the Castorama and B and Q chains -- has posted a huge drop in pre-tax profits during its first quarter, as a continued poor performance in Britain offset success abroad.)