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Chair of B&Q owner Kingfisher to step down after string of profit warnings

The City grandee chairman of the owner of B&Q is stepping down, it announced today, in a move which has followed a string of profit warnings.

Kingfisher said Andrew Cosslett “decided not to stand for re-election” and would leave the home improvement retailer after its annual general meeting in June.

He will be replaced by Claudia Arney, an existing non-executive director, who has also held a number of major roles in the City and public life, including at the Premier League and Transport for London

The FTSE 100 company, which also owns the Screwfix chain, has been caught up in a wider slowdown as house markets have faltered. Rising interest rates and more expensive mortgages have led to a fewer people moving house, taking a toll on the repair, maintenance and improvement markets that drive demand.

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B&Q – and Kingfisher’s French chains Castorama and Brico Dépôt – have struggled with a decline in trade since Covid lockdowns boosted business.

The recent run of profit warnings has unnerved the City, and Kingfisher’s shares are trading around their lowest level since the start of 2023.

Cosslett is a former chief executive of Intercontinental Hotels and has had a long career at big-name firms, including a 14-year career at Cadbury Schweppes, having also worked for Unilever. He was also CEO of Fitness First and has been chair of Rugby Football Union.

Arney chairs Deliveroo, the web-based fast food platform, and was a non-executive director of the Premier League between 2015 and December 2020. She is the Lead non-executive board member” at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and was on the board of Transport for London for almost five years. She is on the City’s panel on takeovers and mergers.

She said: “I look forward to continuing to support our great management team in our mission of making home improvement accessible to everyone. Since joining the Board in 2018, I have learned a great deal about the complexities and nuance of our business and retail banners.”

In comments made at Kingfisher’s most recent profit warning, issued last Month, Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “The group is in a difficult phase…

“...for the moment, a positive direction of travel seems far from being established and the market consensus of the shares as a sell reflects limited confidence in the immediate prospects.”

He added: “While there could be a boost resulting from an improvement in housing demand in the UK in the next few months, Kingfisher is mindful that this would also come with a time lag until any such benefits wash through to home improvements demand.”

Cosslett said: “It has been a privilege to serve as Kingfisher's Chair over the last seven years. During this time we have changed and strengthened our leadership team, put in place a more effective business strategy, managed the pandemic and worked hard to further the Company's reputation as a champion for responsible business.”