Losses have widened at Ocado despite a rise in half-year sales

Ocado has reported widening half-year losses despite achieving a strong increase in sales.

The online grocer said its loss before tax for the 24 weeks ending 19 May was £3.8m, compared with £0.2m the previous year.

It blamed the poorer bottom line performance on exceptional costs associating with opening its new distribution centre in Dordon, Warwickshire, as well as professional fees related to its tie-up with Morrisons to help the supermarket chain launch its own online grocery business.

Ocado grew sales 15.2% during the period to £382.7m and average customer basket size increased by £1.80 to £114.90.

“The first half of 2013 has been an extremely busy period for us as we continued to grow both our customer numbers and average basket,” said Ocado CEO Tim Steiner.

Ocado also reported that the number of orders delivered on time or early improved to 94.4% - compared to 93.2% last year.

It said its new fulfilment centre in Dordon was operating to plan and processing around 35,000 orders a week.