Updates from Kingfisher, Barratt and Sports Direct

French sales continue to disappoint for B&Q and Screwfix owner

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savings, tax, stockmarket, pensions, cash, investment FTSE 100While most markets dipped yesterday, the damage was limited with the FTSE 100, down just 5.7 points to 6,829. Primark owner ABF gave way to more pressure, slipping 2% to 2700p while SSE dropped 1.4% to 1456p. But much better news for house builder Persimmon, up 3.5% to 1358p. Also Morrisons, which recovered more than 3% to 175.30p.

The Dow Jones saw rather more exposed weakness, slipping almost 100 points to 17,013, despite major product announcements from Apple.

A busy morning on the corporate news front: B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher claims half year total sales nudged 0.9% up (or 1.8% on a like-for-like basis) with flat adjusted pre-tax profits of £364 million after foreign exchange gusts. French sales remain difficult, up just 0.4%.

Group retail profit climbed 3.3% in constant currencies after absorbing the development costs of £11m in new markets Portugal, Germany & Romania. Underlying retail profit, excluding these development costs, was up 6.0% claims Kingfisher.

"Whilst our French business," says boss Sir Ian Cheshire, "saw an improvement in August we remain cautious about the economic backdrop and focused on trading effectively with continued self-help initiatives whilst continuing with our initiatives to build a long term, sustainable future."

Next, house builder Barratt. Profit before tax more than doubled in the last year to £390.6m (2013: £192.0m before exceptional items). Private average selling price increased 12.9% to £241,600 (2013: £213,900) driven by further changes in mix and house price inflation.

The ordinary dividend is set at three times cover with final dividend proposed of 7.1 pence per share, supplying a total ordinary dividend of 10.3 pence per share.

Barratt says it's targeting a return on capital of at least 25% by FY17. "Our special cash payment programme for the next three years combined with our ordinary dividend, is expected to return around £950m of cash to our shareholders."

Lastly, a quarterly update from Sports Direct. Group sales for the 13 weeks ending 27 July 2014 climb 12.2% to £711.2m (2014: £634.0m) and gross profit is upped 11.8% to £301.2m (2014: £269.3m).

Sports Retail sales in the 13 week period bumped up 16.3% to £611.8m (2014: £526.0m), and Sports Retail gross profit increased 15.8% to £260.4m (2014: £224.8m).

"Recent trading," says boss Dave Forsey, "including the period since 27 July, has been in line with management's expectations with some stronger weeks offset by England's disappointing World Cup performance."

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