Friday, May 27, 2005

Gibraltar's Safeway up For Sale

• Movement in Morrisons UK

Morrisons Supermarkets UK
Morrisons, the owners of the Safeway store instructed the property dealers Rapleys to advertise the Gibraltar store in trade publications it has emerged.

The advertisement focuses on this being a prime retail store “with significant development potential” although highlighting that any development would be subject to planning.

Adverts appeared in the past four weeks but Morrisons declined to comment on what response they have had so far.

The Westside site of 6.79 acres has a long leasehold and the advert shows a picture apparently taken from the Europort tower.

This comes just a month after Morrisons management from Britain visited Gibraltar and held meetings with local staff as well as Government ministers.

Last month the Chronicle reported that the supermarket chain had been enticed by property developers to allow the massive supermarket site at the heart of the Westside reclamation to be sold for development.

In April this year Morrisons themselves confirmed that they had received a number of unsolicited enquiries from other retailers about the Gibraltar store.

“The board have decided to market the store to understand the true nature of this interest, which may lead to the store being sold,” they told the Chronicle then.

On April 30 with the sale of its two Safeway stores in the Channel Islands the company confirmed its strategy of “focusing its business in the UK” and said that this had followed the previous week’s announcement to local employees that the Safeway store in Gibraltar would be marketed in the near future.

Meanwhile, Morrisons yesterday announced that executive chairman Sir Ken Morrison has stepped down from the day-to-day running of the firm in order to concentrate on the firms strategic vision.

As shareholders met for the annual meeting in Bradford, Sir Ken pledged to stay with Morrisons for at least another year yesterday in order to see through the troubled integration of Safeway.

Predicted shareholder disquiet failed to materialise at the packed meeting as speakers lined up to praise the 73-year-old and urge him not to be “diverted by temporary storms’’. Only one arm from the floor was raised in opposition to his re-election as chairman.

The Bradford-based group, which last warned on profits just two weeks ago, also announced the appointment of Richard Pennycook as finance director, following his departure from motoring group the RAC.

Sir Ken will remain chairman of the plc board, which meets about every month, but is leaving the operations board, which meets every week, to make key decisions. Mr Stott denied the change meant Sir Ken was no longer in charge.

“He’s stepping back a little and allowing me to operate as chairman of that board," he said. “As chairman of the company, of course, he’s in charge."

Morrisons said it still expected operating margins to be significantly lower than last year’s level for much of the year, as indicated in this month’s profits warning, but it would be unable to give guidance on operating profits until “further detailed work" on its forecasts.

Related Article:

04 May 2005 - Morrisons reduces overseas stores

22 April 2005 - Morrisons consider bid for Gibraltar Safeway store - Confirmed


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