Safeway delays release of Christmas sales figures

Safeway, the supermarket group that has been at the centre of takeover rumours, yesterday said it would report 1997 Christmas sales on 24 February, three weeks later than the previous year. The move, which it said would allow investors to get a fuller picture of trading in the key holiday period, came amid speculation it was delaying the statement because of poor sales. Last year Safeway issued its holiday trading figures on 7 February.

A spokeswoman said the company had decided to release the statement later because heightened interest in the company made a fuller statement covering a longer trading period necessary. Safeway called off merger talks with Asda in September, saying a newspaper report of the talks robbed it of the confidentiality it needed to continue.