Asda first-quarter sales fall as it explores stock market float

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Asda saw sales fall after it was impacted by the late timing of Easter (Chris Radburn/PA)

Sales slumped at Asda in the first three months of the year, as the supermarket giant was affected by the late timing of Easter.

The supermarket chain, which last month failed in its attempts to merge with rival Sainsbury’s, reported a 1.1% decline in total sales for the quarter to March 31.

The results come days after its US owner Walmart said it is “seriously considering” a stock market flotation for Asda, but that any preparations would “take years”.

Asda delivered like-for-like sales growth of 0.5% excluding petrol, adjusted for the late timing of Easter.

The retailer said it was buoyed by strong online sales, as it reported double digit growth on its Asda.com and George.com platforms, while online grocery sales jumped 10%.

It said it invested to keep down prices of own-brand products and ‘Rollback’ offers on branded products during the period, amid intense competition from discounters in the sector.

The quarterly figures come after Britain’s competition watchdog put paid to Sainsbury’s audacious £12 billion bid to merge with rival Asda last month.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) vetoed the deal, saying it would lead to increased prices in stores, online and at petrol stations across the UK, with shoppers left “worse off” and quality affected.

Roger Burnley, Asda chief executive and president, said: “Throughout the quarter we have maintained our focus and momentum, against an increasingly challenging backdrop, and we remain entirely focused on delivering our strategy, without the benefits the proposed merger with Sainsbury’s would have delivered.

“We cannot be complacent, but I believe that we have the right plan and some amazing colleagues to deliver in this highly competitive market – and I’d like to thank them all for all their hard work.”

Brett Biggs, Walmart chief financial officer, said: “Against a challenging backdrop in the UK, Asda comparative sales declined with the Easter flip, but transactions were positive as customer experience continued to improve.

“The Asda team is making progress on key strategic priorities. For example, price competitiveness improved this quarter and private brand penetration grew.

“It’s a competitive market, but Asda is making steady progress in its positioning.”

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