Ocado co-founder and commercial director Jason Gissing has announced his retirement, as the online grocer reported another full-year pre-tax loss.
Gissing started the business with current CEO Tim Steiner 14 years ago, having worked together as bankers for Goldman Sachs.
Steiner said Gissing now wanted to spend more time with his four young children and pursue his interest in environmental and social causes.
“Jason has led the development of our brand, and helped shape the culture inside Ocado and the way we are perceived by our customers,” said Steiner. “He has been an invaluable partner and friend to me and I will miss his daily humour and insights. We all wish him the very best.”
Gissing will step down at the Annual General Meeting in May.
The announcement came as Ocado reported a loss before tax of £12.5m, compared with a loss of £0.6m last year. Ocado has still to make a profit despite commanding a stock market value of almost £3bn.
Meanwhile, Ocado’s turnover continues to grow at double-digit levels, increasing 15.2% in the year ending 1 December to £843m.
“Last year the food retail market in the UK was driven by consumers’ increasing preference for shopping online,” Steiner said. “Today the momentum seems unstoppable and, as the market evolves, we are leading the way.”
“Jason has led the development of our brand, and helped shape the culture inside Ocado and the way we are perceived by our customers”
Ocado was hit by one-off costs related to the Morrisons deal and the launch of its second large warehouse in Dordon. During the year, EBITDA improved 32.8% to £45.8m.
Steiner said the launch of Morrisons.com, which Ocado helped to deliver as part of a lucrative deal signed last year, had been a success.
“The efforts of our teams, and the strength of our technology platform, have allowed us to deliver this project successfully in a very short timeframe,” he said.
Ocado also reported significant improvements in service levels. The number of on-time deliveries increased to 95.2% from 92.7% the previous year and item accuracy also improved from 98% to 99%.
The company’s shares have ballooned more than 400% over the past year. Ocado has also been proactive in recruiting IT staff, with its technology team growing to 400.
The figures met with a mixed reception from analysts.
“The results provide evidence of continued operational improvement at Ocado and the EBITDA margin improvement should be taken positively,” said Goldman Sachs in a note to investors.
Meanwhile, independent analyst Nick Bubb said: “Given the ‘unstoppable’ momentum in online grocery shopping, it is a bit disconcerting that Ocado isn’t growing faster and is still losing money.”
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