What to Watch: B&Q owner profits fall, Pendragon axes jobs, Fed rate decision

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
B&Q's performance dented profits at parent group Kingfisher. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Images via Getty Images

Here are the top business, market, and economic stories you should be watching today in the UK, Europe, and abroad:

B&Q owner sees profits fall

The owner of B&Q and Screwfix saw its underlying profits fall by 6.4% in the first half of 2019.

Kingfisher (KGF.L) shares were down 1.9% at around 9.15am in London after its results were hit by worse-than-expected performance in France, where it owns brands including Brico Depot and Castorama.

The company made an underlying pre-tax profit of £353m in the six months to 31 July, down from £377m a year earlier. Total sales were down 0.9% to £6bn.

CEO Véronique Laury, who will step down next week, said: "Our transformation activity continued in the first half of this year, including new range launches across the Group and the rollout of further capabilities within our unified IT platform.

“These activities resulted in some ongoing disruption that impacted sales at B&Q and Castorama France.”

Markets await US Federal Reserve decision

US and European markets were treading water on Wednesday morning ahead of the start of a US Federal Reserve meeting on interest rates.

The meeting is widely expected to see a second rate cut of the year, but markets were fairly subdued as they await the announcement for further clues on the Fed’s position before making major investment decisions.

Nasdaq futures (NQ=F), Dow Jones futures (YM=F), S&P500 futures (ES=F) were all down less than 0.1%.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was up 0.3%, the Euronext 100 (^N100) was up 0.3% and the FTSE 250 (^FTMC) was up 0.2%.

France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was also up 0.3%, while the German DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.1%.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) was down 0.2%, and China’s Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) was up 0.3%, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index (^HSI) was down 0.1%.

Car dealer Pendragon axes jobs as it swings into red

Car dealership Pendragon (PDG.L) shares plummeted by more than 10% on Wednesday morning after it swung into the red, axed a payment to shareholders and cut around 300 jobs.

The company, whose brands include Evans Halshaw, Stratstone, Quickco and Car Store, was the biggest faller on the FTSE small-cap index after the worse-than-expected annual losses.

It announced around 300 jobs will be lost and 22 of its 32 Car Store sites will be shut down, as it warned its full-year profits would be “at the bottom” of previous expectations.

It reported losses before tax of £32.2m for the first half of the year to 30 June, with losses deepening on last year’s £28.4m over the same period.