Waitrose MD Mark Price has expressed concern over the ongoing talks between rival UK grocer Morrisons and online specialist Ocado about a potential tie-up.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Price said Waitrose would consult its lawyers should a deal be reached between the two companies.
Morrisons and Ocado have been in talks over a possible deal since March. The two sides are negotiating on a potential agreement that would see Morrisons licence some of Ocado’s intellectual property.
Waitrose has a long relationship with Ocado. Its parent John Lewis Partnership was an early investor in the online retailer. John Lewis is no longer a shareholer but Ocado still has Waitrose own-label products in the range of lines it offers. However, Waitrose launched its own home delivery service for customers within the M25 – the motorway that circles London – in 2011.
“If a contract is signed between Morrisons and Ocado we will want our legal team to examine it immediately to ensure there are no breaches of the contract,” Price told the Sunday newspaper. “I would never knowingly sign a contract with Ocado that agreed to them working with another retail competitor.”
Waitrose’s current deal with Ocado, which was renewed in 2010, runs until 2020 but there is a break clause in the agreement that can be activated in 2017.
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Earlier this month, Waitrose said grocery sales via its own waitrose.com service were up over 50% year-on-year in the 13 weeks to 27 April.