LONDON (Reuters) - Kingfisher (LSE:KGF), Europe's biggest home improvements retailer, posted third-quarter profit at the lower end of forecasts and cautioned that its markets remained tough, particularly in France where consumer confidence is weak.
The firm said on Thursday there was no obvious sign of an imminent improvement in consumer sentiment in France, its most profitable market, where it trades as Castorama and Brico Depot.
Kingfisher, which also runs the B&Q and Screwfix chains in Britain, made a retail profit of 271 million pounds ($441 million) in the 13 weeks to November 2 - an increase of 1.7 percent on a constant-currency basis.
That compared with analyst forecasts in a range of 271 to 285 million pounds, with a consensus of 280 million.
Total sales rose 8 percent to 2.92 billion pounds, with sales at stores open over a year up 1.4 percent.
In France, where like-for-like sales were flat, retail profit was impacted by a slightly lower gross margin percentage in a more price-promotional environment, Kingfisher said.
Like-for-like sales in the UK & Ireland increased 2.0 percent, driven by a strong performance at Screwfix, which opened its 300th store in the quarter.
Kingfisher saw sales growth in each of its other international markets, including Poland and Germany.
"Looking ahead, we remain ready to capitalise on any improvement in conditions or opportunities as they arise," said Chief Executive Ian Cheshire, adding he remained "enthusiastic about our longer-term prospects."
Shares in Kingfisher, up 39 percent so far this year, closed on Wednesday at 396 pence, valuing the business at 9.4 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.6144 British pounds)
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Rhys Jones and David Holmes)