Kingfisher , Europe's biggest home improvements retailer, said politicians could still avert a major downturn in consumer spending if they restored confidence in euro zone finances.

What we found in 2008, was it took probably three to six months for major concerns in the financial world to be transmitted through to consumers, chief executive Ian Cheshire said Thursday, referring to recent financial market turmoil.

If the politicians sort themselves out in the euro zone, then there's every reason to think we can carry on bumping along ... We're in the politicians' hands, which is not really the most comfortable place to be.

Cheshire was speaking after Kingfisher beat forecasts with a 14 percent rise in third-quarter earnings as mild weather, market share gains and a drive to boost profit margins helped offset weak sales in Britain and slowing growth in France.

Shares in Kingfisher, which runs the B&Q chain in Britain as well as Castorama and Brico Depot in France and elsewhere, have been hit recently by fears of a downturn in spending in France, which accounts for about 45 percent of group profit.

It's too early to call signs of a downturn in France yet, Cheshire said.

At 0935 GMT, Kingfisher shares were up 3.9 percent at 265.6 pence, the day's biggest rise by a European blue-chip stock <.FTEU3>.

Whether or not France falls back next year remains a big question, but today's update will come as a relief, said Singer analyst Matthew McEachran.


Many European retailers are struggling as disposable incomes are squeezed by rising prices, muted wages growth and austerity measures, and amid fears a euro zone debt crisis could plunge the region back into recession.

Grocers Colruyt and DIA warned last month of weaker trade in France.

Kingfisher, with about 900 stores in eight countries, said sales at stores open more than a year rose 1.9 percent in France, broadly in line with expectations and down from 4.6 percent in the first half.

Mild weather drove strong demand for outdoor products, with lawnmower sales up 17 percent.

Like-for-like sales in Britain were down 0.9 percent, improving on a 1.8 percent decline in a first half disrupted by the closure of rival Focus DIY.

Mild weather helped there too, with B&Q selling more barbecues in the last week of September than during all of June.

Kingfisher, the world's No.3 home improvements retailer behind U.S. groups Lowe's and Home Depot , said it made a retail profit of 273 million pounds in the 13 weeks to October 29.

That marked a slight slowdown from 18 percent growth in the first quarter but beat analysts' average forecast of 263 million pounds in a Reuters poll.

Kingfisher has been boosting profitability by buying more goods centrally and directly from cheaper manufacturing centres such as China, and selling more higher-margin own-brand goods.

Profits in Poland were hit by a sharp devaluation in the zloty, which made it more expensive for consumers there to finance popular Swiss franc mortgages, Cheshire said.

Nonetheless, he expected analysts' average full-year profit forecast to nudge up 10 million pounds to around 800 million.

Tough trading conditions could throw up opportunities to grab market share, Cheshire said, adding Kingfisher could be more interested in picking up individual stores from troubled German rival Praktiker
, such as in Turkey.

He was also interested in India's moves to open its retail sector to foreign companies, but said it was too early to say how the reforms -- which have provoked strong opposition -- would play out.

(Reporting by Mark Potter; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford, Dan Lalor and David Hulmes)