Sir Ken Morrison, chairman of Morrisons, received a minute-long standing ovation from city analysts yesterday as he bowed out following 55 years at the helm of the supermarket chain.

His retirement coincided with record full-year pre-tax profits for the chain, up 65.8% to £612m, on sales up 6% to £13bn. Like-for-like sales for the year to 3 February rose 4.6% excluding fuel.

“I have been with the business now for some 55 years and must say that the experience has been both demanding and fulfilling, but nonetheless it has always been enjoyable,” Sir Ken said.

“I am prepared for a situation where I will have more time to look around and I intend to develop new interests in a number of fields.”

He also hinted that he could sell some of the Morrison family's 16% share in the chain ahead of changes to the capital gains tax in April.

“There are many schemes doing the rounds,” he told the Financial Times. “It could be possible to rebase the price of ownership. It is attractive to have a more balanced investment if you are not involved in the company. No one would be surprised if I adjusted it slightly.”

Shares fell 5.5p to 289.75p on uncertainty about the stake and the current economic climate.