Ocado chief downplays a further plea for cash

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Ocado, the internet retailer that sources its groceries from Waitrose, does not expect to need a fresh injection of cash before it turns a profit despite seeing its losses widen to £45m last year.

The company, which has lost more than £200m since it started, is heading for a stockmarket listing but wants to wait until it is profitable.

Jason Gissing, the finance director and co-founder, said: "In theory we have enough money to see us through to profitability." He said the main impediment was the company's expansion plans, which could require it to build another two or three more warehouses over the next few years depending on how fast it keeps growing.

Despite wider losses, Mr Gissing said another fundraising was unlikely during the next year, but added: "We have to start to think in the next 12 months about how we expand."

The group's sole warehouse in Hatfield, from which it distributes to the North-west and the south coast, is operating to only one-third of its capacity but will exceed that if it keeps growing at its current rate.

In the year to 30 November 2005, Ocado's losses increased by 12 per cent to £45m on sales that grew by 70 per cent to £152m. Its total borrowing increased by 15 per cent to £95m over the period.

In March, it raised a further £60m from existing investors, including Jorn Rausing, the Tetra Pak billionaire, valuing the total business at more than £500m. John Lewis Partnership, which owns Waitrose and has a 29 per cent stake in Ocado, did not add to its shareholding.

Mr Gissing said that a flotation was "definitely" on the cards, but added: "I just don't know whether that will be in 18 months, 16 months, or three years." He said he was confident the business, which is growing at 50 per cent, could be a "multi-billion pound company" one day.