Pets At Home CEO Pritchard to step down after 4 years, shares drop

Nov 3 (Reuters) - Britain's Pets At Home Group Plc (PETSP.L) said on Wednesday Chief Executive Officer Peter Pritchard had agreed to step down next summer, while the pet supplies retailer also forecast annual profit to be at the top end of analysts' expectations.

Work-from-home policies and successive lockdowns in Britain led to a surge in animal adoptions which boosted the London-listed company, and during Pritchard's tenure, the company posted its first ever billion-pound ($1.36 billion) annual retail sales in May.

Pritchard, who will stay in the role until May 2022, has been crucial to the company's turnaround and development of its strategy. The news of the management change sent Pets At Home shares nearly 3% lower to 485.8 pence in early trade.

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"Having completed everything that I set out to achieve in 2018, next summer is the right time to take well-earned rest and to hand over the reins to a new leader," Pritchard said in a statement.

Pets At Home, which also offers grooming and veterinary services, and insurance products, said the pet market in the country had remained robust and the trend had run into the first-half even as pandemic restrictions are eased.

For the fiscal year to March 2022, analysts are expecting pre-tax profit between 128 million pounds and 135 million pounds, Pets At Home said.

A search for a successor to Pritchard had started, Pets At Home added.

Analysts at Liberum said they expect the company to be able to attract a new, "high quality" CEO after Pritchard "leaves the group better positioned than ever".

($1 = 0.7344 pounds)

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Reporting by Amna Karimi and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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