Kingfisher said it would meet year profit forecasts even though underlying sales declines worsened in its fourth quarter.

The group is Europe's biggest home improvements retailer. It runs B&Q in Ireland and Britain and trades as Castorama and Brico Depot in France and elsewhere.

It said sales at stores open over a year fell 3.4% in the 14 weeks to February 2. That compares to a third quarter fall of 2.8%.

In Britain, like-for-like sales at B&Q fell 6.4% - worse than analysts' consensus forecast of down 4.5%.

In France, Kingfisher's biggest market, like-for-like sales fell 0.4% at Castorama and 4.6% at Brico Depot. Analysts' consensus was for declines of 1.6% and 5.3% respectively.

Earlier this month, an interim examiner was appointed to B&Q Ireland’s nine home improvement stores. Two of the stores - Athlone and Waterford - are to be closed as part of cost-cutting proposals.

The company employs 690 in Ireland, made up of 190 full- time positions and 500 part-time jobs, in stores in Cork, Galway, Liffey Valley in Dublin, Limerick, Naas, Swords and Tallaght in Dublin, Athlone and Waterford.