Safeway CEO Carlos Criado-Perez has accused stock market analysts of deliberately painting an unfairly gloomy picture of the retailer’s trading performance.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Criado-Perez said analysts were underplaying the group’s performance in a bid to fuel speculation that the group was subject to a takeover bid.

Shares in the UK’s fourth largest supermarket operator have fallen off as sales growth slowed. Like-for-like sales figures are at the heart of Criado-Perez’ comments. As they form the most revealing performance indicator, it is critical that like-for-like sales are measured and analysed fairly.

As they are not covered by any accounting standards, many retailers have routinely exploited the regulatory loophole to present the figures in as flattering a light as possible, the FT commented. Criado-Perez has accused the City of overlooking such instances in trading updates published by Safeway’s larger rivals Tesco and Sainsbury’s. He accused both groups of including stores with extra selling space added in their like-for-like sales results.