Morrisons’ management team has demonstrated its strength, according to joint md Bob Stott, by the way it has kept up a record-breaking performance despite the demands of the Competition Commission inquiry into the proposed takeover of Safeway.

As he unveiled interim results showing like-for-like growth of 9%, Stott said: “These results show we can do more than one thing at one time.

“We have represented ourselves well to the competition authorities, but we have also kept the business going strongly.”

Stott said Morrisons would continue to focus on its core offer and would not be following its competitors which are carrying out major expansions into non-food, despite launching a range of small electrical items.

He said the new range comprised items such as irons and toasters. “They are the kind of products you might buy with a weekly shop. We will never go into big ticket items or fashion clothing.”

Although Morrisons still lacks stores in the Home Counties, Stott said he was pleased with the openings that had been achieved. New stores at Port Talbot and Ebbw Vale took their total Welsh estate to four, and the company had recently opened its first store in Liverpool.

Other openings in Rotherham and Bristol in October and Barnsley in November will bring Morrisons’ total complement up to 125 by the close of 2003, before any potential Safeway additions are made.

For the 27 weeks to August 10 Morrisons turnover was up by 14.8% on the same period last year, at £2.48bn, and pre-tax profit was up by 10.2% at £126.2m.