Belfast Telegraph

Ocado hails rise in sales but shares hit by cost of new centres

By Holly Williams

Online supermarket Ocado has cheered another strong quarter as it reported a pick-up in sales growth, but signalled a further hit from expansion plans.

The group posted a 13.1% rise in retail revenues to £312.7m for its third quarter to August 27, up from 12.5% in the first half of its financial year.

Including earnings from its tie-up with Morrisons, group revenues were lifted by 14.3% to £344.5m.

But shares in Ocado fell 7% as the group signalled another knock to earnings from the costs of setting up new distribution centres.

It is increasing the capacity at its new centre in Andover, while also working on its fourth and biggest centre in Kent, which is set to open next year.

Tim Steiner, chief executive at Ocado, said: “While increasing some costs in the short term, this will allow us to meet the rapidly growing demand for our services from UK consumers while allowing us to offer the very latest technology to current and future customers of our Ocado Smart Platform.”

In July, it posted an 18.1% fall in half-year profits to £7.7m, with the drop largely as a result of the costs of opening its new distribution centre in Andover.

Ocado’s update came as industry supermarket share figures from Kantar Worldpanel were also released yesterday, showing that Ocado is now reaching more shoppers nationwide than ever before, with 834,000 households shopping with the retailer in the 12 weeks to September 10.

Kantar said Ocado now has a 1.4% share of the market, up from 1.3% a year earlier, while it said the retailer’s sales grew by 10.1% in the latest quarter.

The group notched up a 16% rise in average orders a week to 254,000, although it said the average basket size fell by 1.2% to £106.25, but this was an improvement on the 1.4% fall seen at the half-year stage.

It has previously said that customers are buying fewer items, preferring to shop more frequently.

Retail analysts at Bernstein said earnings expectations would need to be trimmed for Ocado, given the guidance on costs of the new depots.

They said: “The market under-estimates the margin impact of setting up the new facilities.

“In our view, profit expectations for 2018 and beyond will need to come down further.”

Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, added that while the sales growth was “pleasing”, “no further news of tie-ups will leave investors a touch disappointed”.

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