Morrisons is mulling a sale of up to a 10% of its property estate to raise money after a disappointing Christmas performance but shareholders have called the move “incredibly dangerous”.
Morrisons, which has 400 stores, is currently conducting a review of its property which is set to be revealed in March.
The grocer, run by chief executive Dalton Philips, hopes the sale of part of the £9bn property portfolio could raise up to £800m and appease shareholders as a large chunk of it could be potentially returned to them in dividends.
But a number of Morrisons shareholders have called the plans “incredibly dangerous”, according to The Telegraph. Some shareholders are concerned the plans could split the company’s investor base.
One top 20 shareholder and institutional investor told the newspaper: “It is incredibly dangerous. I wouldn’t sell the crown jewels to keep the boat afloat.
“They need to focus on the core estate and get trading as good as it can be.”
The investor added that a sale of the stores could lead to Morrisons’ debt rising as the company’s rental liabilities increased.
Former Morrisons boss Sir Ken Morrison created Morrisons’ strategy of owning most of its stores because he wanted more control over the estate rather than be left at the mercy of long-lease agreements
Morrisons has said it intends to remain “overwhelmingly freehold”.
A sale of the stores would be through a sale-and-leaseback deal, whereby the retailer sells the property to an investor and then leases it back from them. Meanwhile, a number of institutional investors and pension funds are understood to be interested in acquiring the stores.
Morrisons revealed last week that Christmas like-for-like sales, excluding petrol, fell 5.6% and it also now expects full-year profits to be at the lower end of expectations.
Morrisons declined to comment.