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Lindt & Sprüngli has announced Dieter Weisskopf will step down from his current position as group CEO towards the end of the year due to retirement.

The group has appointed Adalbert Lechner, CEO of the German subsidiary and member of the group management team, as the new Group CEO.

The board will then propose the election of Weisskopf as a new member of the board of directors at its AGM on 28 April.

Weisskopf has served as CEO for six years and has spent 27 years in the group management team, including as CFO.

Executive chairman Ernst Tanner commented: “Dieter Weisskopf has contributed significantly to the success of our group. Under his leadership, the company recorded a successful and sustainable performance. Over the past six years, he and the management team have positioned the group very well for future global challenges, both strategically and organizationally, as well as in the important area of sustainability.

“The balance sheet and income statement have been further strengthened, and regions with faster growth have been expanded. All the prerequisites for a continuation of our success story have thus been met. I am extremely pleased that we can continue to count on Dieter Weisskopf’s support as a member of the board of directors.”

“Lindt & Sprüngli is in very good shape, so this is an ideal time to hand over the leadership to new hands,” Weisskopf said. “I look back with pride and much pleasure on my many years of service to the Group and look forward to leading the company until towards the end of the year, continuing to accompany Lindt & Sprüngli as a member of the board of directors and devoting myself to new entrepreneurial activities.”

New CEO Lechner joined the Lindt & Sprüngli Group in 1993. First as CEO of the Austrian subsidiary, then in 1997 he was appointed CEO of its German business.

Under his leadership, the German arm has developed into the largest company of the group with an “extremely successful track record”. In addition to managing Lindt Germany, he is part of the team responsible for the development of its northern and eastern Europe markets as well as the global retail/online division.

“I am very much looking forward to my new role as CEO of the Group and would like to thank the Board of Directors for their trust,” Lechner said. “Dieter Weisskopf hands over the company to me in excellent shape and expectations for the future development are high. I am happy to accept this challenge, as I can rely on an outstanding Management Team.”

Ernst Tanner said: “I am proud of what the Management Team together with over 14,000 passionate and dedicated employees has achieved over the past decades and I am looking forward to a successful future.

“Thanks to our strong culture we have built a solid foundation to further strengthen our position as the world’s leading premium chocolate company. I am very pleased that our company can hand over the CEO responsibilities to Adalbert Lechner, who will together with the Group Management and my support continue our success story.”

Morning update

Pub group JD Wetherspoon has fallen to a pre-exception loss of £26.1m in 2021 from a profit of £51.6m in the previous year as Covid restrictions hammered the business.

Revenues were down 13.5% to £807.4m, with like-for-like sales down 11.8% over the year.

That led to a pre-exceptional (post-IFRS 16) operating profit of just £1.6m compared to £80.8m a year ago.

Chairman Tim Martin commented: “Following a traumatic two years for many businesses and people, the ending of Covid restrictions has brought a return to more normal trading patterns in recent weeks. Trade for the last three weeks was 2.6% below the equivalent period in 2019, reflecting an improving trend.

“Contrary to some reports, the company has a full complement of staff and is fully stocked, with some minor exceptions.

“There is pressure on input costs from food, drink and energy suppliers, mitigated to an extent, by a number of long-term contracts. Overall, the company expects the increase in input prices to be slightly less than the level of inflation.”

“Draconian restrictions, which amount to a lockdown-by-stealth, are, of course, kryptonite for hospitality, travel, leisure and many other businesses. The company is confident of a strong future if restrictions are avoided. The readiness of the leaders of all the UK’s main political parties to resort to lockdowns, and extreme restrictions, which were not contemplated in the UK’s 2019 plans for pandemics, is the main threat to the future of the hospitality industry, but also to the economy.”

THG has announced that non-exec director and chairman of its renumeration committee Tiffany Hall will step down from the board for “family reasons”.

Damian Sanders, chair of the audit committee, will resume his previous role as chair of the remuneration committee on an interim basis.

CEO Matthew Moulding commented: “I would like to thank Tiffany for her contribution to THG during the last twelve months, most notably as Chair of the Remuneration Committee. We wish her all the best for the future.”

Hall added: “Although my time with the Group has been shorter than anticipated, I have huge respect and admiration for everything Matthew Moulding and the Board have achieved and I believe THG has great long-term prospects. I wish the team continued success.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has edged back 0.1% to 7,375.2pts after recent gains.

Risers include Glanbia, up 5% to €11.25, Bakkavor, up 4.9% to 119p and Ocado, up 2.9% to 1,137.5p.

Fallers include SSP Group, down 2.9% to 247.4p, Greencore, down 2.3% to 128.7p and Devro, down 2.2% to 193.4p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 gained another 1.3% to 7,385.3pts.

Deliveroo was amongst the market’s biggest risers, with its shares up 6.4% to 123p despite it losing more than £300m last year as it invested in driving growth.

Ocado plunged 8.2% down to 1,105p after its sales went backwards in its first quarter and it warned of the impact on the war in Ukraine on prices.

Ocado Retail partner Marks & Spencer was down 2.6% to 162.7p on the news.