Sainsbury’s chairman hails ‘progress’ as he shrugs off takeover talk

Shares in the UK’s second largest grocer have lifted in recent weeks after rival Morrisons attracted offers from private equity suitors.

Henry Saker-Clark
Friday 09 July 2021 13:15

The chairman of Sainsbury’s has shrugged off speculation that the supermarket group could be the latest target of a private equity takeover and hailed “progress” under its current leadership.

Shares in the UK’s second largest grocer have lifted in recent weeks, after rival Morrisons attracted offers from private equity suitors.

It also comes months after Asda was bought by the billionaire Issa Brothers and backers TDR Capital.

Speaking at the firm’s annual general meeting (AGM), Martin Scicluna, chairman of Sainsbury’s, said it has followed acquisition activity surrounding its rivals but is happy with its current leadership and strategy.

“We have obviously followed the takeover of Asda and are following events at Morrisons, although that is an active process so can make no comment there,” he said.

“What I can talk about is what we are doing ourselves and we are clearly happy with the strategy that Simon has laid out and on the execution of that plan.

“We are very pleased with the progress we are making and the operation improvements we are making.

“We are pleased that the market has recognised that and you will have recognised our price movement over the past few month.”

Simon Roberts

At the meeting, chief executive Simon Roberts who joined the retailer in 2020 during the pandemic, hailed a “strong operating performance” over the past year.

It came days after the company said sales were better than expected in the last three months, as levels of home food and drink consumption remained high despite the easing of restrictions.

Mr Roberts also told shareholders that the company has seen “some impacts” on supply recently amid a shortage of HGV drivers for some food and drink suppliers.

“Some of our suppliers are seeing increased levels of demand and we are working hard to get products back into stores,” he said.

“Availability has improved year on year but we are pushing ourselves to get even better here.”

The annual general meeting was held from the company’s Holborn headquarters, with shareholders able to attend both physically and digitally.

Directors faced questions in-person from investors for the first time in two years, with one shareholder berating the company for poor directions to the venue.

Meanwhile, another man criticised the fact he could no longer buy game pie from his local stores.

The chief executive responded: “I can’t specifically say where we are on game pie, but we do have to assess which deli counter products can be moved to aisle. I will see whether game pie is there.”