B&Q owner Kingfisher today posted a 4% rise in annual profits amid signs that it is benefiting from the upturn in the UK housing market.

Profits of £744 million for the year to the end of January reflected a strong showing from its Screwfix trade supply division as UK and Ireland sales lifted by 2.7% to £4.3 billion over the period.

B&Q's UK sales were flat at £3.7 billion in a tougher retail market, with the performance held back by a challenging first quarter.

Loading article content

Screwfix sales jumped by 7.3% on a like-for-like basis and were up by 17.6% overall after the company opened 60 new outlets, taking the total to 335.

Kingfisher said it will now extend the Screwfix brand to Germany with the opening of four outlets. The move follows yesterday's sale of Kingfisher's 21.2% stake in German home improvement chain Hornbach in a deal worth around £195 million.

The company's shares jumped 5% in the wake of the results after it also announced additional cash returns to shareholders, starting with around £200 million in the current financial year.

Chief executive Sir Ian Cheshire said the company was in good shape, despite lower profits and difficult trading conditions in France, where it trades as Castorama and Brico Depot.

He added: "Looking ahead we are well placed to benefit from a pick-up in consumer spending as Europe's economies return to growth."

Kingfisher is the world's third largest home improvement retailer, with 1,124 stores in nine countries in Europe and Asia.