The world’s largest home improvement retailer The Home Depot has reported record net profits of US$3.7bn for 2002.

The company’s sales were up 9% to US$58.2bn, while fourth quarter profits totalled US$686m, slightly down from the corresponding period in 2001.

During 2003 it expects to open 200 new stores and predicts profits to rise by between 9-14%.

Bob Nardelli, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Home Depot, said: “While the strength of our balance sheet and our operating performance allow us to stay on strategy, we remain cautious due to the current geopolitical environment and the domestic economy.”

Rival US home improvement retailer Lowe’s recorded a 46% jump in fourth quarter profits to US$319.4m. Its chairman and chief executive Robert Tillman predicts the strong home improvement market to continue.