DIY retailer Kingfisher is to close 60 B&Q stores in the UK and Ireland in a bid to reverse declining profits.

New chief executive Véronique Laury described the move as part of a “set of first ‘sharp’ decisions” as the group’s pre-tax profits fell by 15.2% year on year.

One in six B&Q stores will close over the next two years at a cost of £350m to Kingfisher, with vacant space to be sold or sub-let.

However, Kingfisher expects to continue the UK expansion of its Screwfix brand with around 60 stores due to open in the next 12 months.

Laury said it was clear the company would have to “organise ourselves very differently to unlock our potential”, turning a “locally managed set of businesses” into “a single, unified company”.

A small number of loss-making stores in Europe are also expected to close and Laury outlined plans for “the development of unified garden and bathroom businesses and the start of a big box revitalisation programme across Europe”.

In a separate announcement, Kingfisher said B&Q’s UK chief executive Kevin O’Byrne will be leaving the company in May this year.