Ocado Retail soars, but new deals on hold

Ocado Retail is opening more robot-staffed warehouses as the home shopping trend gains strength.

The UK online supermarket said Thursday (March 18) that revenue rose almost 40% in the first quarter.

That's an acceleration from the previous three months, when growth was already strong.

The rise took revenue at the joint venture with Marks & Spencer to around 838 million dollars.

Online's share of the UK grocery market has more than doubled over a year of lockdowns.

In February it accounted for 17% of all sales, according to market researcher Nielsen.

Ocado will now ramp up capacity to meet demand, opening more of its semi-automated warehouses.

The firm's shares still fell Thursday though, continuing recent declines.

Analysts put the slide down to a lack of progress on the other side of its business.

The Ocado group sells its technology to overseas supermarkets, such as Japan's Aeon.

But new deals seem to be on hold for now.

On Thursday group CEO Tim Steiner said he was talking to lots of retailers.

But he said travel difficulties had hindered progress.