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LONDON (Reuters) - Discount supermarket Lidl UK [LIDUK.UL] has been given local government approval to build a new London head office for its British business, clearing a significant hurdle to a 70 million pounds investment, it said on Friday.
German-owned Lidl, which has won market share from biggerrivals Tesco (TSCO.L), Sainsbury's (SBRY.L), Asda (WMT.N) andMorrisons (MRW.L), but has seen its rate of sales growth slow this year, said the Royal Borough of Kingston's planning committee had decided to grant permission for the proposed development at Tolworth, southwest London.
Plans for the new headquarters, together with investment in a new British distribution centre and an aggressive store expansion programme, show Lidl's appetite to invest in the UK has not been diminished by uncertainties caused by Britain's June vote to leave the European Union.
Kingston's consent will now be referred to the London Mayor's office for final approval.
"We hope to receive the Mayor of London’s feedback and to progress with the plans early in the new year," said Ingo Fischer, Lidl UK director for expansion and development.The planned 240,000 square feet (22,300 square metre) office will replace Lidl's current Wimbledon headquarters which it has outgrown.
“Our new headquarters not only signify an investment in our own infrastructure and workforce, but also highlight our wider investment ambitions within London as Lidl UK continues to experience incredible growth," said Fischer.
Earlier this month Lidl said it would spend 70 million pounds building a new distribution centre in Britain next year, creating 500 jobs.
Before the June referendum, campaigners in favour of remaining in the EU had warned that international companies could reduce their presence in Britain as a withdrawal from the bloc would make it a less attractive place to invest. But Lidl is sticking to plans announced in 2015 to invest1.5 billion pounds over three years on expanding its store and logistics network with a view to having 1,500 stores in Britain in the long term. It currently trades from about 640.
In September the firm's UK business parted company with its long-term chief executive Ronny Gottschlich, replacing him with Christian Härtnagel, a little known Lidl executive who was previously in charge of sales and operations in Austria.
Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Adrian Croft