Sainsbury's growth slows as King bows out

Sainsbury's incoming chief executive Mike Coupe vowed to ensure the grocer remains on an even keel and his predecessor's legacy is not squandered yesterday as Justin King bade farewell to the City.

Mr Coupe said his message "is one of continuity" and he would not rewrite the "successful formula we have worked hard on over the last 10 years" when he takes the reins in July.

Mr King unveiled a forecast beating set of record profits yesterday, posting a 5.3 per cent rise in underlying profits to £798m. But the supermarket still reported its slowest profit growth for 10 years.

This slowdown in profit growth will send alarm bells through the City, as the supermarket industry hurtles into a price war, sparked by the rapid growth of discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Mr King dismissed fears that a price war would dent Sainsbury's margins. He said a focus on quality food sourced ethically would help Sainsbury's open up a gap with rivals obsessed with price tags. He accused his competitors of cutting back on investment in store standards and service.

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