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Fast growing sales in Screwfix and the weak pound helped counteract declines last year in the French operations of Kingfisher, the European operator of DIY stores.

The company also announced chairman Daniel Bernard was stepping down after eight years. He will be replaced in June with Andy Cosslett, a former chief executive of InterContinental Hotels Group and Fitness First.

Sales rose 7.5 per cent in the 12 months to the end of January 2017, almost all of which was due to the weaker pound – in constant currency terms the gains would have been 0.7 per cent.

Like for like sales at Screwfix, the group’s UK brand, rose 14 per cent and the company plans to open 50 more stores this year.

However, like for like sales at the company’s French divisions – Castorama and Brico Dépôt – fell 2.8 per cent, despite holding what Kingfisher said was “a strong market position in France and benefiting from a well invested store estate”.

Adjusted pre-tax profits were up 8 per cent to £743m, a figure that excludes the gain from the disposal of B&Q China.

Véronique Laury, chief executive officer, said:

I am really pleased that our performance has been achieved alongside delivering the key first year strategic milestones of our ambitious five year transformation plan, based on creating a unified company where customer needs come first. We have learned a lot and are aware of the challenges.

Looking forward, the EU referendum has created uncertainty for the UK economic outlook and we remain cautious on the outlook for France, especially in light of the forthcoming presidential elections.

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