General view of a B&Q DIY store, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Chiswick, London, Britain, April 23, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley/File Photo

LONDON, Sept 21 (Reuters) – British home improvement retailer Kingfisher (KGF.L) reported a 61.6% jump in first-half profit on the back of a do-it-yourself boom during the pandemic and raised its sales expectations for the second half.

The group, which owns B&Q and Screwfix in the United Kingdom and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, made an adjusted pretax profit of 669 million pounds ($914.3 million)for the six months ended July 31.

That beat guidance of 645-660 million pounds and was up from 415 million a year earlier.

Many people have rediscovered DIY during the COVID-19 crisis as they spend more time at home, have fewer leisure options and travel less.

Kingfisher’s sales rose 22.2% on a constant currency basis to 7.1 billion pounds, with like-for-like sales up 22.8% and up 21.3% on a two-year basis.

“We have navigated well through the challenging operational impacts of the pandemic, retaining good product availability at competitive prices and operating safely,” CEO Thierry Garnier said.

The group said it had made a good start to its second half, with resilient demand across all markets.

Third quarter to Sept. 18 like-for-like sales were down 0.6% reflecting high comparative numbers.

It raised its second half expectations, forecasting like-for-like sales down 7% to 3% versus previous guidance of down 15% to 5%.

Kingfisher forecast a 2021-22 adjusted pretax profit of 910-950 million pounds, up from 786 million in 2020-21.

It also declared an interim dividend of 3.8 pence and plans to return 300 million pounds to shareholders through a share buyback.

($1 = 0.7317 pounds)

Reporting by James Davey, editing by Paul Sandle and Jason Neely

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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