Sainsbury’s bosses to face shareholders over collapsed Asda deal

Senior executives and board directors at Sainsbury’s are set to face a barrage of questions from shareholders next week, as the supermarket hosts its first public investor meeting since the collapse of its merger with Asda.

Sainsbury's Morecambe, general views

The annual general meeting on Thursday will also be the first chance for new chairman Martin Scicluna to explain why he thinks chief executive Mike Coupe remains the best person to lead the supermarket into the future.

Shares at Sainsbury’s fell to a 30-year low in May after the Competition and Market’s Authority ruled out the Asda deal, and shareholders will no doubt have a word or two to say about it.

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Mr Scicluna has already said he supports Mr Coupe, despite the failed deal, but shareholder advisory groups have expressed concerns over bonuses, especially with the falling share price.

Advisory body Glass Lewis said: “The committee have failed to outline the impact, if any, of the failed deal on the bonus outcomes of the executives, particularly in light of share price performance as a direct result.”

Mr Coupe walks away with £3.9 million in pay this year, including a bonus, but shareholders will need to vote it through on Thursday.

The day before the meeting, Sainsbury’s will also update the stock market on its latest trading, with its first-quarter results.

Analysts are predicting a fall in sales across all three divisions of food, general merchandise and clothing.

Clive Black, retail analyst at Shore Capital, reckons like-for-like sales will fall between 0.5% and 1%, with groceries off by between 0.25% and 1.25%, general merchandise down 1% to 2% and clothing sales also off by 1% to 2%.

He warned that the Asda merger may have distracted senior management, and said the company “has been operationally and financially wobbling for some time with the core supermarket division delivering a sub-optimal execution of its proposition to its shoppers relative to the market, manifested in a sustained loss of market share and laggard position in the secondary sales tables, we should also say crumbling profits, whilst Sainsbury Bank has been little short of a financial calamity”.

James Grzinic, at Jefferies, is even more pessimistic, predicting like for like sales down 2%, with food sales off 1.2%, general merchandise down 2.2% and clothing falling 2% too.

He pointed out that sales will also be hit due to tough comparisons with a year ago, with the poor Easter weather expected to hit Sainsbury’s Argos business particularly hard.