March 16, 2020 / 7:58 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-Kingfisher shuts all French, Spanish stores due to coronavirus

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LONDON, March 16 (Reuters) - Home improvement group Kingfisher said on Monday all 221 of its Castorama and Brico Dépôt stores in France have closed until April 14 in line with government advice on coronavirus, while its 28 stores in Spain have also shut until March 29.

The group said it is working to mitigate the implications of these closures, including serving customers through click & collect or home delivery.

Kingfisher's remaining over 1,100 stores across the United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Portugal and Russia remain open.

But it said significant uncertainty exists around the impact of COVID-19, forcing it to take measures to contain its costs and protect its financial position.

These include reducing operating expenditure, reducing stock and goods not for resale (GNFR) purchases, optimising working capital, stopping all but essential capital expenditure, and making use of tax payments and other government relief measures.

The group said that up to March 14 it had experienced no impact on demand from the outbreak. In February group like-for-like sales were up 7.6%, or up 2.3% excluding the impact of an extra day on Feb. 29.

In the first two weeks of March group like-for-like sales continued to be positive, with growth across all businesses within its core markets, strongly supported by e-commerce sales.

"However, there is significant uncertainty on sales and demand as the outbreak spreads, and as central governments and businesses take action to contain and delay its impact," it said.

The group said it was not yet able to predict the impact of the virus on results for the current 2020-21 year. It plans to report results for 2019-20, as scheduled, on March 24. (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton and Sarah Young)

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