Waitrose has sought to play down claims MD Mark Price has refused to meet Ocado counterpart Tim Steiner after the online specialist's deal with Morrisons.

Ocado, which has a long-term partnership with Waitrose, last week announced it would help another UK grocer, Morrisons, launch its own online service.

During the talks between Ocado and Morrisons, Price publicly expressed concern at the prospect of a deal. When an agreement was revealed on Friday (17 May), Waitrose said it would ask lawyers to look at the deal.

Yesterday, The Daily Telegraph reported claims from Steiner he had emailed and sent text messages to Price. Steiner, however, said Price would not meet him to discuss the situation.

Speaking to just-food today, Waitrose looked to cool the affair and suggested Price would meet Steiner once the upmarket UK grocer's legal team looked at Ocado's deal with Morrisons.

"It's not a question of refusing to have a meeting but simply a case of wanting to see the contract so we can have a useful substantive meeting," a Waitrose spokesperson said.

Shares in Ocado, which has yet to make a net profit and has divided the City, jumped on Friday after its deal with Morrisons. However, some analysts believe the venture could, in the long term, mean the end for its agreement with Waitrose.

The deal between Waitrose and Ocado, which includes the supermarket chain's own-label products in its deliveries, lasts until 2020. However, the contract includes a clause that could see Waitrose walk away from the deal in 2017. Some industry watchers believe Ocado's deal with Morrisons makes it more likely Waitrose will enact the clause.

Click here for more on the Morrisons/Ocado deal.