Asda today reported a slowdown in sales growth in the fourth quarter as it waits for the green light over its planned merger with Sainsbury’s.
The supermarket chain, which is owned by US grocery giant Walmart, posted a one per cent rise in like-for-like sales excluding petrol in the three months to the end of December.
The increase marks Asda’s seventh consecutive quarter of sales growth, but is slower than the two per cent increase recorded in the previous quarter.
Asda chief executive Roger Burnley said: “The year ahead looks no less turbulent than the last, with uncertainties around Brexit playing on our customers’ minds.
“Whilst I am pleased with our performance in 2018, we must remain focused on ensuring the long term sustainable success of Asda for our customers.”
The update comes amid a probe into the planned £12bn tie-up between Asda and rival Sainsbury’s.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an inquiry into the merger, which would create Britain’s largest supermarket chain.
Last week the regulator pushed the publication date of its report back to 30 April to give it enough time to reach a “fully reasoned final decision”.
But it is likely any approval for the deal would be subject to the two supermarkets selling off dozens of stores to competitors, with Iceland reportedly interested in snapping up branches.
Asda’s sluggish growth came despite strong fourth quarter trading for its parent company Walmart, which was driven by a 43 per cent jump in online sales.
The US supermarket chain reported a 4.2 per cent increase in like-for-like sales over the period, while total revenue rose almost two per cent to $138.8bn (£107bn).
Walmart president and chief executive Doug McMillon said: “In the UK, Brexit – and the potential implications of a hard Brexit – is increasingly on the mind of everyone.
“No matter the situation, Asda will always work to keep prices as low as possible for its customers.”