Morrisons sells stake in US online food retailer for £45M

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Morrisons has sold its stake in UK online food retailer Fresh Direct
Morrisons has sold its stake in UK online food retailer Fresh Direct
Morrisons has sold its 10% stake in US online food retailer Fresh Direct for £45M.

The retailer announced in March 2014 that it would dispose of its investment at an appropriate time.

The sale represents a premium of £14M to the £31M holding value of the equity investment.

Morrisons bought a stake in the company, which operates in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey in 2011, when it was looking into the online grocery market.

However, Morrisons decided to enter a deal with Ocado in 2013 to run its delivery operations in the UK for £216M.

Renegotiated deal

Earlier this month Morrisons renegotiated the deal, which would see Ocado develop a nationwide store picking operation.

There was also the cancellation of the profits share, a reduction in the research and development fee paid by Morrisons from 2018 and the introduction of a five-year break clause.

Morrisons also agreed to sell non-food brands through its own website. It also agreed to help fund 30% of the costs of developing Ocado’s new distribution centre in Erith, south London, which is due to open in 2018.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said he believed the transaction made sense for Morrisons, describing it as “extensive corporate tidying up”​.

In a briefing document he said that as the group has a minority shareholder in a private business could “pose vulnerabilities at times”.

Attractive return

“The risk-reward and valuation analysis undertaken by the company with respect to Fresh Direct leads us to believe that exiting with an attractive return on cash at this time, aided recently by the movement of sterling against the dollar, so contributing to ongoing de-leveraging of Morrisons, is a logical move​,” he said.

Shore Capital said that the “more workable modus operandi”​ agreement with Ocado for online delivery operations was welcome. It also noted its commercial relationship with Amazon, which is a major competitor to Fresh Direct in New York City.

Shore Capital said the disposal of Fresh Direct “completes considerable corporate housekeeping” ​and further signals the necessary focus and simplification that ceo David Potts and chief financial officer Trevor Strain, are injecting into Morrisons.  

He said:“The break with Fresh Direct by Morrisons is, therefore, clean on all counts.”

Morrisons interim results are scheduled to be released on September 15 2016.

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1 comment

SVP

Posted by Brian Weiner,

Who did Morrisons sell the shares to?

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