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Jul 2, 2020
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No apology required - Sainsbury's chairman defends former CEO's record

Reuters API
Jul 2, 2020

The chairman of Sainsbury's on Thursday defended the six-year tenure of former chief executive Mike Coupe after an investor at the supermarket group's annual meeting asked if he would say sorry for its share price performance under his leadership.

Coupe stepped down as CEO on May 31 and was succeeded by retail and operations director Simon Roberts. Coupe retired as a director at the conclusion of the meeting, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus crisis.

When Coupe succeeded Justin King as CEO in July 2014 Sainsbury's share price was 309 pence. It closed on May 29, the last working day before he stepped down, at 194 pence.

"In common with other UK grocery businesses, total shareholder return (TSR) for Sainsbury's has trended below that of the FTSE 100 index in recent years," said Chairman Martin Scicluna.

"However, if you look at our track record over the last seven years our TSR has been above that of (market leader)Tesco's ," he said.

Scicluna also noted that the board had deferred any dividend decisions until later in the financial year due to the pandemic which had impacted TSR.

Last year, Coupe's attempt to take over Walmart owned rival Asda was thwarted by Britain's competition regulator.

The same shareholder also asked what measures Roberts would introduce "to make Sainsbury's great again."

Scicluna said Roberts was following the plan Sainsbury's set out to investors at its Capital Markets Day last September but his current priority was to navigate the crisis.

"I'm sure there are things that we'll be doing differently as we come out of this crisis and our focus is ensuring we emerge a stronger business."

On Wednesday, Sainsbury's said sales soared in its latest quarter when Britain was in lockdown but cautioned that it expected flat annual profits due to extra costs related to the pandemic.

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