UK online specialist Ocado has dismissed reports it is in discussions with Morrisons over a potential sale to the country’s fourth-largest supermarket chain.

Morrisons, which is in talks with Ocado over a licencing deal, is rumoured to be considering a GBP1bn (US$1.53bn) takeover bid for the Internet retailer.

A spokesperson for Morrisons declined to comment on the “market rumour” earlier this week, insisting the firm’s online plans remain “on track”. Morrisons is preparing to launch an online food offer next year.

In a statement today (26 April), Ocado said the arrangements under discussion “do not involve Morrisons acquiring either the whole of, or an equity stake in, Ocado”.

Last month, the two retailers confirmed they were in talks that could help Morrisons launch its online food service. The talks, Morrisons said at the time, were about plans to “licence certain of Ocado’s intellectual property and operating knowledge”.

Unlike its major rivals, Morrisons does not sell food online but last month announced plans to set up the service next year.

Ocado added today: “Discussions are ongoing, however, there can be no certainty that an agreement will be reached. A further announcement will be made in due course.”