Financial News

  • 2 June 2014, 0:18

Scots Independence: B&Q Boss Warns Over Split

The boss of the DIY giant B&Q has warned investment in Scotland would be put on hold if the country decides to go it alone.

Sir Ian Cheshire, chief executive of multinational Kingfisher, which owns the home improvement chain, said there are too many uncertainties around tax, currency and Scotland's membership of the EU in the event of a Yes vote for independence.

Plans for another 23 Screwfix shops would also be put on ice.

Sir Ian, speaking at his newest B&Q warehouse in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, stressed he would not pull out north of the border if Scots decided to split from the UK.

But he said: "It would put a pause on everything.

"If we have differences on VAT, currency, it just puts everything into hibernation as we try to figure out what it will mean.

"At the end of that we have to consider what is the trading environment.

"Because Scotland is such an important part of B&Q, there's no way we're going to let it go, but it would be more complicated, probably more costly and less likely to attract investment, given we could invest in 11 other countries around the world."

B&Q employs more than 2,600 people in Scotland and around 20,000 across the UK.

Screwfix, which Kingfisher also owns, has 27 shops in Scotland employing just under 400 people.

Sir Ian, who is not eligible to vote on September 18, said independence would mean having to change the company's UK-wide IT system, while thousands of products may also have to be repriced in B&Q and Screwfix.

He said his warnings were based purely on business reasons, and dismissed claims Scotland could not survive on its own as "ridiculous".

Sir Ian said: "Whatever the result of the referendum, we will be here."

But he would "strongly advise" a vote against independence.

"As a business, through our lens, it is clearly better to be part of the UK," he said.

"There's always a way of making things work, but the question is, basically, is this better than the current situation? I would say not. I can see the downside, I can't really see the upside."

Tony Banks, chairman of Balhousie Care Group and the pro-independence group Business for Scotland, said Sir Ian had nothing to fear from a Yes vote.

He said: "The only risk of red tape and barriers to trade comes with a No vote after which it looks increasingly likely Scotland will be dragged out of Europe by the rest of the UK."

On Friday, Kingfisher saw a fall in its share price after profits fell below expectations as promotions hit margins in its UK operations, while trading in France was held back by weak consumer confidence.

The quarterly update showed group retail profit for the period rose 20% to 142m, but it this was below market forecasts of 145m and the stock fell nearly 5%, or 20.3p, to 397p.

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