J Sainsbury Plc reported a surprise increase in fourth-quarter sales as it ponders whether to boost its bid for Argos owner Home Retail Group Plc.
Same-store sales rose 0.1 percent excluding gasoline in the nine weeks ended March 12, London-based Sainsbury said in a statement on Tuesday. The gain ended two years of declining sales and compares with analyst estimates for a 0.3 percent decline.
“The market will remain competitive but we are confident that we will continue to outperform our major peers,” Chief Executive Officer Mike Coupe said in the statement.
Sainsbury has proved more resilient than most of its mainstream rivals to intense competition from discounters Aldi and Lidl.
The tough market conditions prompted Coupe to pursue a 1.3 billion-pound ($1.9 billion) cash and shares acquisition of non-food retailer Argos, and the CEO must this week decide whether to boost his proposal after Steinhoff International Holdings NV topped it with an all-cash offer. Tuesday’s statement made no mention of Home Retail.
Sainsbury’s is the second largest chain of supermarkets in the UK with a share of the UK supermarket sector of 16.9 percent. Founded in 1869 by John James Sainsbury with a shop in Drury Lane, London, the company became the largest grocery retailer in 1922, was an early adopter of self-service retailing in the UK, and had its heyday during the 1980s.
In 1995, Tesco overtook Sainsbury’s to become the market leader, and Asda became the second largest in 2003, demoting Sainsbury’s to third place for most of the subsequent period until 2014, when Sainsbury’s regained 2nd place. The holding company, J Sainsbury plc, is split into three divisions, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, Sainsbury’s Convenience Stores Ltd (Sainsbury’s Local), andSainsbury’s Bank. The group’s head office is in the Sainsbury’s Store Support Centre in Holborn Circus, City of London. The group also has interests in property.
As of May 2011, the largest Sainsbury family shareholders are Lord Sainsbury of Turville with 4.99 percent, with Judith Portrait the trustee of various Sainsbury settlements and charitable trusts holding 3.92 percent.
The largest overall shareholder is the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, the Qatar Investment Authority, who hold 25.999 percent of the company. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.