Ocado directors purchase cut-price shares

Ocado directors have recently taken the opportunity to purchase cut-price shares, increasing their personal stakes in the retail tech firm.

Non-executive chair Rick Haythornthwaite bought £100,000-worth of shares, while Ocado Technology chief executive James Matthews followed suit with a purchase worth almost £88,000.

The move was made as the company’s shares dropped by 48% this year, sinking to their lowest value since 2018. They are now worth less that a third of their highest value.

In March, the company said a “return to pre-Covid shopping patterns” had contributed to falling sales in the first quarter of 2022 as online sales patterns began to return to pre-pandemic levels.

While customer numbers rose by 31% year-on-year, indicating a strong consumer appetite for the upmarket online grocery brand, the average basket value fell by 15%, to £124. Ocado partly attributed this to the overall 4% dip in UK grocery market sales across the sector.

READ MORE: Ocado AGM: 30% of shareholders voted against £100m bonus plan for bosses

The business – a joint venture between Ocado Group and Marks & Spencer – said at the time that “smaller baskets offset the increase in the number of customer transactions in the quarter”.

Full-year revenue growth in 2022 is expected to be around 10%, despite initially being forecast to reach the mid-teens.

Ocado was already on a downward trend following a tech sell-off at the start of the year, which saw shares falling across a raft of ecommerce and tech firms including Deliveroo, AO World, Asos and Boohoo.

An ongoing lawsuit between Ocado and its US warehousing tech rival Autostore has added a further layer of complications. Although Ocado won the intellectual property case in March, Autostore has said it intends to appeal against the decision.

There are also some questions over Ocado’s long-term plan for profitability, which involves selling its “game-changing” new technology to grocery partners,  including Groupe Casino.

The directorial share purchases are expected to restore some confidence in Ocado’s market valuation.

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