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Domino's Pizza sees Christmas sales boost

Domino's Pizza revealed faster growth in the UK today as it stepped up the search for a successor to departing boss Lance Batchelor.

The pizza delivery chain saw like-for-like sales rise 10.9% over the 13 weeks to December 29, partly driven by more online marketing and the timing of Christmas.

It means full-year profits will be ahead of forecasts for the UK and Ireland, although losses in the group's German arm mean they are likely to remain as expected overall.

Chairman Stephen Hemsley said head-hunters had been appointed to search for a chief executive "of the highest calibre" to replace Mr Batchelor, who is leaving at the end of April.

Today's trading update showed he oversaw a year when UK like-for-like sales climbed 7% overall, after the strong showing in the final quarter. Total sales for the year were £608.8 million.

Mr Batchelor said: "I am pleased to report an outstanding last quarter of like-for-like sales growth in our core UK market."

Online sales grew 15.7% over the last quarter compared to the same period in 2012, with nearly a third of these now accounted for by mobile device sales, which have nearly doubled.

The chain opened 50 new stores this year, including six kiosks in Extra motorway service stations, a kiosk in Newcastle University and one mobile unit. No stores closed and at the end of the period there were 777 in the UK.

Sales also grew in Ireland and Switzerland. There was improvement too, in Germany, where Domino's is restructuring the business by transferring most of the stores into the hands of franchisees after deciding to proceed more cautiously in the country.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Wayne Brown said concerns remained over management changes, the group's strategy in Germany, and the rate of store openings - after it said earlier this year the pace of UK expansion would be lower than expected.

The Domino's business in Europe, which is separate from its counterpart in the US, has 858 outlets.

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