Jim McCarthy

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Poundland (PLND) CEO Jim McCarthy is stepping down from the head of the discount chain after 10 years to be replaced by the former boss of B&Q.

McCarthy, who joined Poundland in August 2006, informed the board of the plc that he wished to retire.

Kevin O’Byrne will take up the role of chief executive designate on 4 April before taking full control on 1 July. McCarthy, 60, will remain available to the board until his retirement at the annual general meeting in September.

Under McCarthy’s leadership Poundland has grown from 146 stores with sales of £310m to a business with more than 900 stores in the UK, Ireland and Spain and revenues of more than £1bn.

“Poundland is a strong business, which I am privileged to have had the opportunity to lead through a period of significant growth and change,” he said.

“After over 40 years in retail, including 10 years leading Poundland, I will leave the business in the hands of a very experienced leadership team who I know will give Kevin their full support. I am delighted that Kevin will be taking over from me and I wish Poundland, its dedicated colleagues and supplier partners the very best for the future.”

During his career, O’Byrne has been a director of Dixons Retail and Kingfisher, with his most recent role as CEO of B&Q UK and Ireland. He is also senior independent director at Land Securities Group.

O’Byrne said: “I am very excited about joining Poundland, a business with a strong brand and great potential. Jim and his team have built a very good business. I look forward to working with the talented and experienced management team to deliver its ambitious plans.”

Morning update

AB InBev (ABI) has agreed to sell SABMiller’s (SAB) 49% stake in Chinese brewery Snow to the joint venture partner China Resources Beer for $1.6bn (£1.1bn). It is the latest sell-off to satisfy regulators as the Stella owner edges towards hauling the mega-merger with SAB over the line. ABI has already agreed to sell off SAB’s interest in the US to Molson Coors and the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands in the UK and Europe to Asahi. The latest transaction has been approved by the board of China Resources Beer, which already owns 51% of CR Snow.

SAB chief executive Alan Clark said: “Our CR Snow joint venture was established in 1994 and the Snow brand was developed in the same year. Since then, Snow has grown to become the world’s largest beer brand by volume, selling more than 100 million hectolitres last year. Since forming the joint venture we have enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership with CRB and together we have achieved great things in the Chinese beer market over the last 22 years.”

Profits have grown 8.9% at Vimto owner Nichols (NICL) despite sales remaining flat at £109.3m in 2015. The group said the pre-tax profit growth to £28m was driven by trading activities which delivered a gross profit increase of 5.6% (£2.8m). UK sales were 0.3% behind 2014 figures at £84.8m but Nichols said the performance in the challenging category was ahead of the total soft drinks market as the group continued its strategy of value over volume. International sales were up 3.9% in the year to 31 December 2015.

Non-executive chairman John Nichols said: “I am pleased to report another strong performance in 2015 reflecting the strength of our brands and diversified business model. Our financial performance remained strong with international sales up 3.9% on a constant currency basis and Group profit before tax up by 8.9%. Complementing our organic growth we were delighted to complete the two important strategic acquisitions during the year of the Feel Good brand and Noisy Drinks. These provide exciting extensions to Nichols’ brand portfolio and distribution and will have a positive impact on revenue in 2016. Underpinned by the strengths of our brands, people and business model the Board looks forward with confidence to the year ahead.”

Shares in Poundland have dipped 0.2% to 180.9p on the back of news of Jim McCarthy’s departure. SABMiller shares nudged up 0.2% to 4,216p as the mega-merger with AB InBev edged ever closer. Nichols jumped 5% to 1,312.4p as it made strong gains in its bottom line.

The FTSE 100 opened up another 0.6% to 6,186.65 points. And Morrions, which looks set for a return to the top tier at Sports Direct’s expense, was up 0.3% to 203.2p.

Yesterday in the City

Shares in Greggs (GRG) stormed up 16% to 1,200p towards pre-Christmas levels after the baker announced a £100m investment plan to continue the rapid growth of the business. The group is proposing to close three of its 12 bakeries and reinvest in the turning the remaining sites into manufacturing “centres of excellence” to increase capacity and grow the estate past 2,000 stores.

It was another miserable day at Ocado (OCDO), which lost another 5% of value to take the share price to 247p. The shares are down 11% so far this week after Morrisons revealed it would supply Amazon with hundreds of grocery lines.

Morrisons (MRW) climbed another 2.1% to 203.1p to take the stock to 8.8% up for the week.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.9% to 6,152.9 points as world stock markets were buoyed by oil price gains and a fresh stimulus package from China’s central bank.

Grocery and fmcg stocks followed the upward trend, with rises for Premier Foods (PFD) (up 5%), AG Barr (BAG) (up 3.9%) and Glanbia (GLB) (up 3.7%).