MORRISONS' statutory profit before tax decreased by 43 per cent in the first half of the year, amid a two-way battle for a takeover, as it warned of pressure on prices due to the lorry driver shortage 

The Bradford-based supermarket chain says its statutory profit before tax was £82m, compared to £145m for 2020/21, as part of its interim results for the first half of 2021 up to August 1.

But the firm's total revenue, including fuel, has increased by 3.7 per cent to £9.05 billion for the same period, up for £8.73bn compared to the same spell last year.

The group's like-for-like (LFL) sales excluding fuel/excluding VAT down by 0.3 per cent (2020/21: up 8.7 per cent).

Quarter two group LFL excluding fuel/excluding VAT are down by 3.7 per cent (Q2 2020/21: up 12.3 per cent).

Morrisons yesterday confirmed it is in discussions with the stock market's Takeover Panel to launch an auction process for the chain.

Bosses at the Bradford-based supermarket chain hope to bring to an end the three-month battle for the business between two private equity firms, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) and Fortress.

The interim results report confirmed said: "The Board has received offers for the company from CD&R and Fortress and is recommending CD&R’s offer of 285p per share.

"Shareholders will be asked to approve this offer at a Court Meeting and General Meeting to be held in or around October 18."

They have also reported a 'significant acceleration of Morrisons Daily roll-out' with 350 McColl’s store conversions expected by November 2022. This is up from original target of 300 by the end of 2023.

The ‘Morrisons on Amazon’ now expanded to more than 60 towns and cities, covering 60 per cent of the British population and accounting for more than 10 per cent of sales in the majority of stores offering the service.

The number of Morrisons stores offering Deliveroo grocery home delivery services in the UK increased from 183 to 328 during the first half of this year.

Morrisons also has several new Sustain and community schemes, including commitments to Net Zero carbon agriculture by 2030 and removing all plastic bags from our stores by early 2022. Other environmental projects include Growing British Brands and Seeds of Hope campaigns.

During the second half of 2021, Morrisons expects significantly lower lost profit, minimal further direct Covid-19 costs, and mitigation of potential sustained cost increases in the supply chain.

The chain also expects strong free cash flow and a further reduction in net debt.

For the 2022/23 period, Morrisons expects material benefits of both no direct Covid-19 costs and the full recovery of lost profit.

Morrisons says it remains confident 'of a year of meaningful profit growth'.

Morrisons chiefs praised its staff among the pandemic period amid challenges during the first half of 2021 including HCV driver shortages in its supply chain.

Andrew Higginson, Morrisons chair, said: “Across the business the whole Morrisons team has shown commendable resilience facing into a variety of continuing challenges during the first half, including the ongoing pandemic, disruption at some of our partner suppliers, and the impact on our supply chain of HGV driver shortages.

"As we approach our busiest time of year, I’m confident the team will continue to rise to all challenges and keep up all the good work to improve the shopping trip for customers.”

David Potts, chief executive, said: “I want to thank all Morrisons colleagues for their unswerving dedication and commitment during the long pandemic period.

"Their innovation, enterprise, hard work and boundless compassion have shone through, and a new Morrisons is taking shape.

"You are a special team and together have built a strong and broad foundation on which Morrisons will thrive in the future.”