Kingfisher, Europe's largest home improvements retailer, said today that its longstanding chief executive Ian Cheshire would step down before the end of its financial year.

He will be succeeded by Veronique Laury, the boss of French unit Castorama. 

The succession plan was announced as Kingfisher posted flat first-half profits, as good weather in the first quarter was offset by a tougher second quarter. 

The firm, which runs the B&Q chain in Ireland and the UK and Castorama and Brico Depot in France and other markets, said it made an underlying pretax profit of £364m in the 26 weeks to August 2.  

That compares to analysts' average forecast of £360m, 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% but experienced a sharp slowdown in its second quarter. 

The firm had cautioned in July that its markets in the second quarter, notably in June, had been slower than anticipated, particularly in France and Poland.