Ocado has raised £578m via a discounted share placement to boost the rollout of its technology amid the global shift to online grocery.

The online supermarket said this morning it had placed 72,327,044 new shares with investors worth £575m, while 246,405 retail shares and 105,944 shares to senior management brought the total capital raise to £578m.

The shares were priced at 795p, which represented a discount of 9.4% to yesterday’s closing share price of 877.6p.

The placement was announced after the market closed last night.

Ocado shares fell 2.7% to 854p today, having dropped as low as 797.5p before recovering later in the day.

Ocado did not specify what the proceeds would be used for, but more generally said the cash was needed to “bring solutions to market even faster”.

It said the shift to online grocery accelerated significantly with the Covid-19 pandemic and industry data suggests that this change will continue, as customers continue to demand greater convenience for their online shopping.

Therefore, it wants the extra funding to “support its current Ocado Solutions partners as the increase in online grocery demand globally” and that requires faster growth in fulfilment capacity.

It also wants to continue its investment in innovation and at a faster pace, while strengthening its position as the leading end-to-end solution provider for online grocery fulfilment globally over the long-term.

Meanwhile, it also announced a successful agreement on a new £300m revolving credit facility, provided by a syndicate of leading international banks.

The placement came as Fitch Ratings downgraded Ocado’s debt rating one notch from BB- to B+ over concerns relating to the slow rollout of its international operations.

Fitch said it now expects Ocado’s combined solutions business will turn profitable one year later than it previously expected, now predicted to add to the bottom line in the year ending November 2024.

Fitch also noted the ratings downgrade reflected the upfront investment and execution risks associated with opening 40 international CFCs over the next four years, given just seven are currently live.

The ratings agency said its action “captures higher execution risks relating to slower ramp up of the international CFCs before they fully contribute to positive profits for the segment”.

“We believe the business will generate strong profit margins once it reaches scale,” it said. “However, it will take longer than previously expected.”

On its fundraising, Fitch said it “supports the group’s financial flexibility, which we believe should enable management to execute its strategy over the next two years”.

“Further fundraising over the medium term is largely contingent on Ocado successfully executing its growth strategy,” it noted.