Morrison shares slump as Ocado talks continue

Kasmira Jefford
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MORRISONS said yesterday it was not dependent on the online grocer Ocado to launch its own digital business next year.

Finance director Trevor Stain said they supermarket was still in talks with Ocado over sharing some of its software but he stated that Morrisons was “not dependent on them to go online” and “may or may not” reach a deal.

Shares in both retailers slumped after investors, who anticipated more details on the possible tie-up, were left disappointed.

Britain’s fourth biggest supermarket has lagged behind its rivals in opening convenience stores and launching an online food offer.

In March it pledged to launch an online grocery business by January 2014. It has also doubled its target for convenience store openings to 100 by the end of the year, with half of these in the south east.

Chief executive Dalton Philips yesterday said it had made a solid start to the year, with like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, down 1.8 per cent in the first quarter to 5 May, an improvement on the 4.1 per cent decline in the last quarter.

The firm, which unlike rivals produces a lot of the products it sells, said it had benefitted from coming out unscathed from the horsemeat scandal, boosting sales of fresh food.

Sales of fruit and vegetables rose 4.5 per cent and beef by two per cent while fish sales grew by 10.5 per cent. He said Horsegate “helped drive increasing customer recognition of Morrisons unique supply chain and approach to meat sourcing”.