Credit: Ocado

How long can Ocado keep investors waiting?

The online grocer's sales are soaring but its promised international partnership is yet to materialise.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 18 Feb 2016

You’ve got to hand it to Ocado. While most of its rivals in the grocery industry have floundered the online supermarket’s sales continue to soar. This time last year the then 15-year-old company posted its first ever pre-tax profit and today it did even better as that figure soared 65.3% to £11.9m in the year to 29 November. 

That’s on the back of a 16.7% jump in revenues to £1.1bn, the sort of growth Tesco and co. are unlikely to enjoy ever again. But that expansion is from a low base and Ocado has a long way to go before it can claim to be a grocery giant. While it is still keen to grow its retail revenues by tempting away customers from the Big Four, its focus has shifted over the last few years to becoming a provider of tech to other supermarkets.

That kicked off in 2013 with a deal to run Morrisons’ online shopping operation but since then further clients have not been forthcoming. This time last year CEO and founder Tim Steiner said he was confident of bagging a deal with a big international partner by the end of 2015.

One month into 2016 and there’s still no news. ‘Despite not signing a first deal in 2015, discussions with multiple potential international partners to adopt the Ocado Smart Platform solution continue and our confidence in signing a deal remains high,’ the company said.

It’s not immediately obvious how investors feel about that. Although Ocado’s shares leapt on this morning’s positive numbers, at the time of writing they had dipped 1.63% below yesterday’s closing price to 259p. If Steiner doesn’t pull a big fat bunny out of the hat soon then it’s hard to imagine they won’t fall further - unless of course that rumoured Amazon takeover bid comes to fruition. 

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