LONDON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Kingfisher, Europe's largest home improvements retailer, said on Wednesday Ian Cheshire, its chief executive for nearly seven years, would step down before next January and be succeeded by Veronique Laury, the boss of French unit Castorama.
Laury has been with Kingfisher for 11 years. Currently a member of the group executive committee she will join the Kingfisher plc board ahead of taking up her new role.
"This decision, reached during the regular succession discussions between the board and (Cheshire) recognises that the next phase of Kingfisher's evolution requires a significant leadership commitment and continuity," said the firm.
Kingfisher said the next five years will be particularly busy as it develops its IT systems, expands Screwfix and Brico Dépôt into new markets, completes its common brands programme and integrates Mr Bricolage into the business.
Laury will become the fifth woman CEO in Britain's FTSE 100 index of blue chip companies.
The succession plan was announced as Kingfisher posted flat first-half profit in line with expectations, as a boost from good weather in the first quarter was offset by a tougher second quarter.
The firm, which runs the B&Q and Screwfix chains in Britain and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said it made an underlying pretax profit of 364 million pounds ($586.8 million) in the 26 weeks to Aug. 2.
That compares to analysts' average forecast of 360 million pounds, according to a company poll.
Kingfisher had a strong first quarter as fine weather drove sales at stores open over a year up 6.1 percent but experienced a sharp slowdown in its second quarter.
The firm cautioned in July that its markets in the second quarter, notably in June, had been slower than anticipated, particularly in France and Poland.
First half sales rose 0.9 percent to 5.77 billion pounds and were up 1.8 percent on a like-for-like basis.
Kingfisher is paying an interim dividend of 3.15 pence, up 1 percent.
"Whilst our French business saw an improvement in August we remain cautious about the economic backdrop," said Cheshire.
Shares in Kingfisher, No. 3 in the world behind U.S. groups Lowe's and Home Depot, have fallen 25 percent over the last year. They closed Tuesday at 307.2 pence, valuing the business at 7.3 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.6203 British Pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)