Sainsbury CEO Coupe warns of Brexit pain

By BLOOMBERG

LONDON • J Sainsbury plc CEO Mike Coupe warned over the consequences of the UK leaving the European Union (EU) without a trade arrangement, as the retailer reported a drop in firsthalf profit that was in part driven by Brexit.

“There is a very straightforward fact which is that thousands and thousands of lorries cross the channel carrying food every day,” Coupe said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. “It’s inconceivable that there isn’t some kind of arrangement put in place. Our wish would be for unencumbered trade relations to remain.”

The London-based company has been one of the most outspoken retailers over the potential damage that a disorderly Brexit would do to its business. With the British Retail Consortium warning of backlogs at the country’s ports if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, executives are breaking their silence on the issue.

Sainsbury’s stance has drawn the ire of JD Wetherspoon plc chairman Tim Martin who on Wednesday dismissed the company’s claims that food prices would rise if the UK left the bloc without a trade de alas “comple tely untrue”. Martin advocates the UK scrapping tariffs on food imported from outside the EU.

Sainsbury’s underlying pretax profit fell 9% to £251 million (RM1.39 billion), the London-based grocer said in a statement yesterday. Analysts had estimated a drop of 11% to £246 million.

Sainsbury has been unable to pass on the full impact of rising food prices sparked by last year’s Brexit induced decline in sterling. Excluding fuel, retail same-store sales growth slowed to 0.6% in the second quarter (2Q) from 2.3% in the 1Q.