UK supermarket operator Morrisons today [Friday] warned that annual profits would be significantly lower than anticipated.

The company blamed the downturn on sluggish trading at unconverted Safeway stores. Morrisons acquitted Safeway earlier this year after a protracted bidding battle and investigation by competition authorities.

On a brighter note, those Safeway stores which have already been converted to the Morrisons fascia are performing ahead of expectations, while the core Morrisons stores were also performing well, the company said.

Today’s trading statement showed that annual like-for-like sales at Safeway were down 7.2%, or 8.9% excluding petrol.

As a result, the group said: “It is likely that reported full-year profits for the current year will be substantially lower than current market expectations.