Sainsbury’s CEO wants “Brexit certainty” from next government

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Sainsbury's CEO Mike Coupe urges
It's not the first time Salisbury's CEO Mike Coupe has cautioned over Brexit.
// Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe has urged the next government to “bring Brexit certainty”
// The UK is due to go to the polls on December 12, just over a month before the new Brexit deadline
// Coupe’s comments come after Sainsbury’s half-year profits took a battering in a trading statement published this morning

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe has called on the next government to provide certainty on Brexit, along with business rates reforms and loosening planning rules to boost UK retail.

“The most important thing is we get some certainty around the Brexit scenarios,” Coupe told PA.

“One way or another that weighs heavily on our customers and our markets.

“I would suggest that the whole Brexit scenario hangs over customers and creates uncertainty, so the quicker we can resolve that situation, the (sooner) economic factors should rebalance themselves.”


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Coupe’s comments come after Sainsbury’s trading statement published this morning revealed a massive decline in half-year profits, mostly due to property wrtiedowns associated with store closures in its £500 million business overhaui and cost-cutting drive.

The Big 4 chief executive also said holding a General Election in mid-December would likely to have an impact on sales, because polling day tends to be a quiet one for retailers.

The UK is due to go to the polls on December 12, just over a month before the new Brexit deadline of January 31.

Sainsbury’s and its rivals have previously spoken out against Brexit, with Coupe warning that the industry could suffer without access to EU workers in the supply chain.

The British Retail Consortium had also warned that a no-deal Brexit would hit sales and availability, especially on imported fresh food.

Coupe said he expects Christmas to still be strong, but was concerned for the public’s psyche in the new year.

He called on the next government to reform business rates, with the high taxes making it difficult for Sainsbury’s to make future investments.

“We pay well over £500 million a year on business rates and that clearly has a weight on our balance sheet,” Coupe said.

On planning laws, he said: “At the moment there are very tight restrictions on the type of retail you can do on high streets.

“If they liberalise it, the market would very quickly respond to that and would lead to more regeneration.”

In its half-year trading update this morning, Sainsbury’s said it took a £203 million hit to its balance sheet from a series of store closures and as a result, statutory pre-tax profits came in at £9 million – a 91 per cent nosedive on the £107 million recorded a year ago.

However, Sainsbury’s insisted its business overhaul plans were on track, with improvements to pricing and product ranges.

On an underlying basis, which removes the one-off costs with the property writedown, pre-tax profits declined 15 per cent year-on-year to £238 million.

Both statutory and underlying sales during the half-year period were fairly flat, coming in at £15.1 billion and £16.8 billion respectively, while total retail sales excluding fuel slipped 0.6 per cent year-on-year.

Half-year like-for-like sales were down one per cent year-on-year.

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