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April 14, 2015

Most followed: Alliance Trust, Centrica, Morrisons, Quindell

Poundland’s sales have moved past the £1bn mark, the discount retailer revealed today.

The retailer’s success is the latest example of Britain’s growing appetite for cut price shopping – an appetite that really started to grow in the last decade during the credit crunch.

Total sales in the year to the end of March, excluding Spain – where, presumably it does not trade as Euroland – rose 11.8% year-on-year on a constant currency basis to £1.11bn.

Like-for-like sales were up 2.4%, having increased by 1.9% year-on-year in the previous financial year.

The company said it served an average of 5.3mln shoppers a week in the first quarter of 2015.

The results statement made only passing reference to the company’s proposed takeover of rival 99p stores.

“We continue to carefully consider the UK Competition and Markets Authority's announcement in relation to its Phase 1 review of the group's proposed acquisition of 99p Stores Ltd, together with the full detail behind it and will make a further announcement in due course,” the company said.

Elsewhere in the retail sector, group trading director Casper Meijer has left Morrisons (LON:MRW), the beleaguered supermarket chain.

As you may have deduced from his name, Meijer is not a native of the UK and he left after being asked to relocate from the Netherlands to the UK, although newspapers suggest he was only returning to his homeland on weekends to be with his family.

Meijer is the latest member of the senior management team to walk the plank at Morrisons, though his departure does at least seem to have been of his own volition. New boss David Potts wasted little time wielding the axe when he took over in February, jettisoning five directors as he sought to introduce a leaner management structure.

More news from Britain’s board rooms, and utility company Centrica (LON:CNA), which has appointed former Aviva executive Mark Hodges as managing director of its British Gas division.

He takes over on 1 June, just a few weeks after the General Election and if Ed Miliband is the prime minister when he does so then the first item on the agenda could be how to deal with the Labour Party’s avowed intention to tackle what it sees as profiteering by the utility companies.

Centrica is renowned for paying top dollar to its executives and Hodges will certainly be able to whack the thermostat up to 30 degrees Celsius on a base salary of £625,000, which will be augmented by what Centrica calls “an annual bonus opportunity” of up to 100% of his salary, plus an annual long term incentive award of up to a maximum of three times his base salary, with half of any annual bonus award coming in the form of shares.

Elsewhere, Quindell (LON:QPP), the closely-followed small cap that recently sold off its professional services division, has named Mark Williams as its new chief financial officer.

This is not the Mark Williams who used to feature in the “Jesse’s Diets” sketches on The Fast Show, but a consultant who has been advising the board since January of this year. Which is nice …

Meanwhile Alliance Trust (LON:ATST), the investment trust that is fending off an assault from an activist investor that wants three new directors appointed to the board, said in its quarterly results this morning that it is stepping up its efforts to appoint “a truly independent non-executive director” in the summer. @MasterMetals MasterMetals Blog

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