Lidl replaces CEO after less than three years

* Company insider promoted after CEO leaves

* Second CEO to go since March 2014

* Retailer planning to expand into U.S. market

BERLIN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - German discounter Lidl, which has expanded rapidly in Europe to become one of the continent’s biggest retailers, has replaced its chief executive for the second time in less than three years because of differences over strategy.

Lidl has promoted Dane Jesper Hojer to the CEO role, replacing Sven Seidel who had taken charge in March 2014, the Schwarz Group, the owner of Lidl, said in a brief statement.

Seidel, 43, was leaving because of unspecified differences over strategy, according to the family-owned Schwarz Group.

German monthly Manager Magazin reported last year that Seidel, a former partner at Porsche Consulting, had fallen out of favour with Klaus Gehrig, who has headed the Schwarz Group since 2004.

Seidel took charge after his long-term predecessor Karl-Heinz Holland left due to “unbridgeable”, but undisclosed, differences over future strategy.

Hojer, 38, has worked for Lidl for more than 10 years, including as head of the business in Belgium and most recently as head of its international buying operation.

Lidl, which runs more than 10,000 stores in 27 countries in Europe, is in the midst of a recruitment drive in the United States ahead of a launch there in late 2017 or 2018.

Lidl and German rival Aldi have become giants by selling mostly own-brand goods in no-frills stores with minimal staff.

However, both chains have struggled in recent years in their home market as German shoppers have shifted to mainstream supermarkets, prompting the discounters to offer more brands and spruce up their stores, while also expanding abroad.

Lidl’s sales rose 9.5 percent to 64.6 billion euros ($68.9 billion) in the fiscal year to the end of February 2015.

Based in Neckarsulm in southern Germany, Lidl is owned by Germany’s richest man, Dieter Schwarz, son of the company’s founder Josef Schwarz. ($1 = 0.9377 euros) (Editing by Keith Weir)