UPDATE 1-Britain's Kingfisher profit jumps 44% on booming DIY in pandemic

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LONDON, March 22 (Reuters) - British home improvement retailer Kingfisher reported a 44% jump in full-year profit, driven by the popularity of do-it-yourself (DIY) projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kingfisher, which owns B&Q and Screwfix in the UK and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said on Monday it made an adjusted profit before tax in the year to Jan. 31 of 786 million pounds ($1.1 billion), ahead of analysts’ average forecast of 757 million pounds and the 544 million pounds made in 2019-20.

Many people have rediscovered DIY during the crisis as they spend more time at home, have fewer leisure options and are travelling less.

As it is deemed an essential retailer, Kingfisher’s stores have been allowed to stay open during lockdowns.

Sales rose 6.8% on a constant currency basis to 12.3 billion pounds, with like-for-like sales up 7.1% for the year and up 15.5% in the fourth quarter.

Like-for-like sales have accelerated to be up 24.2% in the first quarter so far of Kingfisher’s new financial year.

The group is planning for low double-digit like-for-like sales growth in the first half of its 2021-22 year, but a dip in the second half of up to 15% due to tougher comparative numbers and uncertainty over the macroeconomic and consumer environment.

It is aiming to grow full-year adjusted pretax profit, before 85 million pounds of non-recurring net cost savings, in line with sales.

$1 = 0.7223 pounds Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Edmund Blair and Louise Geavebs