Speaking at Sainsbury’s agm this week as the chain announced a further 1,000 price cuts, King said it was not a done deal. “Asda’s chief executive [Andy Bond] said he expected us to overtake them. This is not necessarily true and they will work very hard to stop us,” he said. But, he added, it was a measure of how far Sainsbury had come.
Last month, Bond revealed that Asda could lose out over summer, when Sainsbury traditionally does better in fresh produce.
One retail analyst said the game playing out between the two was unlikely to indicate a significant change in the order of market share. “Asda will undoubtedly be reinvigorated under Bond and will pull out all the stops.”
At the AGM, chairman Philip Hampton also acknowledged the “bad medicine” that had to be taken over the past year. Unrest over the halving of the annual dividend to 7.8p was widespread through the meeting, with shareholders eager to find out where their money had gone and why King had backtracked on earlier promises.
One shareholder said: “Last year Justin King was talking about the importance the board attached to the dividend - and weeks later it was being cut.”