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Kingfisher Plc snaps up profits

The world’s number three DIY empire is gobbling up profits to expand and return cash to shareholders.

Europe's top home improvement retailer Kingfisher posted a 20 percent jump in its first quarter profits on Thursday.

The UK-based group said retail profit jumped to 142 million pounds ($237 million), just below its forecast.

The company said sunny weather in Europe helped drive up sales by 6.1 percent over the same period last year. Kingfisher owns DIY chains B&Q in the UK and Castorama in France and has 1,134 stores in nine countries.

Kingfisher is also starting a program to return cash to shareholders, which it announced in March. The company said Thursday it will pay 100 million pounds in special dividends on July 25.

The company has already returned 35 million pounds through a share buyback scheme.

Expansion mode

Kingfisher is in expansion mode as evidence mounts that Europe is emerging from its debt crisis and China's emerging middle class begins to buy property.

It is proceeding with plans to acquire a smaller French rival, Mr. Bricolage, and is also taking its Screwfix retail chain to Germany.

The world's third largest home improvement group, Kingfisher is also seeking a partner for its fledgling B&Q China operation, which includes plans to launch a B&Q Design Center to test demand.

kpc/cjc (Reuters, Bloomberg)