Ocado rises after Morgan Stanley analysts note "strong showing" in Kantar data

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Ocado rises after Morgan Stanley analysts note "strong showing" in Kantar data
Credit: © Reuters.

By Scott Kanowsky

Investing.com -- Shares in Ocado Group PLC (LON: OCDO ) surged towards the top of the pan-European Stoxx 600 on Wednesday after analysts at Morgan Stanley said new data suggested the online grocer had a "strong" showing in December.

Numbers from consulting company Kantar showed sales at Ocado increased by 8.2% during the 12 weeks to December 25. The company's market share also remained flat despite a slowdown in digital grocery spending on a year-on-year basis.

The Morgan Stanley analysts said the Kantar data implied that sales at Ocado Retail - the joint venture between Ocado and British rival Marks and Spencer Group PLC (LON: MKS ) - rose by 20% year-on-year, which would top consensus estimates released in the first half of its 2022 financial year.

The sales outlook for Ocado Retail had darkened last year after the Hatfield, England-based Ocado delayed the opening of two automated distribution centers in the U.K. due to flagging post-pandemic customer demand online. But the Morgan Stanley analysts argued that the Kantar figures should help ease concerns over possible underperformance at Ocado Retail.

Soaring inflation in the U.K. helped drive up grocery spending to £12.8 billion in December, according to Kantar. Monthly grocery sales were also £1.1B higher than in the same month in 2021.

However, sales, as measured by volume, dropped by 1% year-on-year, which Kantar said highlighted the "challenges shoppers are facing" from elevated price growth.

"This story played out across the traditional Christmas categories. For example, value sales of mince pies soared by 19% but volume purchases barely increased at all," said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, in reference to a traditional British festive treat.

Grocery price inflation stood at 14.4% in December, although this was lower than the mark of 14.6% registered in November, adding to hopes that the impact of inflation may be in the early stages of waning.

The high costs led many consumers to seek out lower-priced options, helping Aldi - the U.K.'s fastest-growing grocer - increase its market share to 9.1% from 7.7% last year. Sales at fellow discount retailer Lidl also expanded by 23.9%.

Tesco PLC (LON: TSCO ) - Britain's biggest supermarket chain - saw 12-week sales jump by 6%, while rival J Sainsbury PLC (LON: SBRY ) moved up by 6.2%. Shares in both firms rose.

Meanwhile, supermarket chain Morrisons also had its best sales performance since June 2021 despite falling by 2.9%.

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