Sainsbury's suffers summer slowdown

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J Sainsbury has continued to outperform the market despite a sales slowdown over the summer as the £10.6bn takeover of the UK's third-largest supermarket edges closer to fruition.

Sainsbury's yesterday echoed comments from its rivals Tesco and WM Morrison by pointing to a slowdown in sales growth over the past few months as a result of the dreadful summer weather. The supermarket chain reported growth of less than 3 per cent over the summer, a marked slowdown from its performance in the previous quarter.

However, the company still managed to outperform its rivals over the period, its sales growth outpacing that achieved by Tesco over the summer. Justin King, Sainsbury's chief executive, said that the company also had to contend with strong comparative figures due to the good weather last summer and the football World Cup.

Sainsbury's said that total sales growth in the first half was nearly 5 per cent despite a rise of more than 8 per cent in sales in the same period last year. Mr King said he expects sales of organic and higher-quality food to continue to be strong over the Christmas period.

The results were overshadowed by the ongoing takeover talks with Delta Two, the Qatari investment firm backed by the government of the emirate, which is pursuing a 600p-a-share offer. The Qataris are locked in talks with the supermarket's pension trustees over the size of a cash injection into the company's pension fund after the Sainsbury family threatened to block the deal unless an agreement was reached.

Mr King said that the strong trading performance reflects the progress the company has made over the past two years. "If there is an offer, it would clearly be an offer born of success," he said.

Mr King declined to comment further on the talks, but said he could stay on at the supermarket if the deal proceeds. "I thoroughly enjoy this job and see myself staying... in the long term, no matter who the owner is," he said.

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