WITH the prospect of a Greek debt default weighing heavily on European markets, the UK’s big grocers were under pressure following the latest snapshot of the health of the sector.
Data from Kantar Worldpanel showed discount rivals Aldi and Lidl continued to win customers away from the established chains, with Morrisons the only one of the “big four” to grow sales in the past three months. But shares in the Bradford-based retailer still ended the day 1.8p lower at 180.8p.
Market leader Tesco, which endured a 1.3 per cent fall in takings for the 12 weeks to 21 June, dropped 6.2p or 2.8 per cent to 212.55p, while rival Sainsbury’s closed down 8.9p at 265.3p – a decline of 3.3 per cent – as Kantar said its sales had dropped by the same margin.
Elsewhere in the sector, there was better news for online grocer Ocado, which gained 15.9p or 3.7 per cent to 445.9p after telling investors it was confident of securing an international partner for its technology by the end of the year.
The FTSE 100 Index finished the day 99.5 points lower at 6,520.98, having tumbled more than 133 points in yesterday’s session, as Athens looked set to miss a €1.6 billion (£1.1bn) payment to the International Monetary Fund.
Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “While we can expect some turbulent times should Greece default and exit the eurozone, it shouldn’t be quite as cataclysmic as it might have been just a couple of years ago. The problem is not knowing what the knock-on effect might be: will it tempt other struggling peripheral countries to try the same thing?”
The biggest FTSE 100 riser was drug company Hikma Pharmaceuticals, up 47p or 2.5 per cent at 1,933p, followed by engineer Meggitt, which edged up 3.4p to 466.4p. The heaviest faller was miner BHP Billiton, down 52.5p or 4 per cent at 1,249p.