Ocado posted a fall in half-year profits due to costs associated with the fire at its Andover warehouse, but sales rose as boss Tim Steiner hailed “innovation” at the grocer.

The online grocery retailer posted a 46.3% decline in EBITDA to £18.1m in the 26 weeks to June 2, down to £18.7m in adjusted terms, as group revenue increased 10.5% to £882.3m.

The retailer recorded widened pre-tax losses of £142.8m compared with a £13.6m pre-tax loss the previous year, down to £43m in adjusted terms.

The retailer said its decline in profits “reflects the combined impacts of the Andover fire, IFRS 15 delaying the recognition of fees from international solutions partners as revenue, and the cost of share schemes”.

Ocado’s retail sales rose 9.7% during the period to £811.5m, which the etailer attributed to the “resilience” of its grocery arm as the fire at its Andover warehouse had an estimated 2% impact on sales during the half despite a 10% impact on capacity.

Revenue across its solutions arm rose 20.6% to £70.8m during the period, while the retailer flagged that fees invoiced from its partners rose 36% year on year to £122.7m, with fees from overseas partners nearly doubling.

During the first half of its financial year Ocado signed its joint venture with Marks & Spencer, signed its sixth international partnership with Australian grocer Coles, unveiled plans to develop a second customer fulfilment centre for Sobeys and offloaded its beauty business Fabled to Next.

To date, the grocery etailer is set to develop 34 customer fulfilment centres on behalf of its partners.

The retailer hired 1,300 new roles during the half, 255 of which are software engineers.

Ocado’s number of active customers rose 9.7% to 745,000 during the period.

Chief executive Tim Steiner said: “In the last six months the centre of gravity at Ocado group has shifted. Our exciting new joint venture with M&S creates further growth opportunities for both parties in the UK and allows Ocado group to increase focus on growing our Ocado solutions business and innovating for our partners.

“At the same time we are beginning to apply our technology skills and expertise to other related activities which we expect to be of benefit to our solutions partners as well as to other Ocado group stakeholders.

“The innovation factory we have created is founded on a near 20-year heritage of constant re-examination and reinvention of technology to provide the best customer experience. We have never had as many opportunities to grow as we do today.

“As we look to successfully scale our business and deliver outstanding execution to our partners, our challenge will be to select and prioritise the most attractive of these opportunities.”

Purfleet confirmed as fifth CFC site

Ocado boss Tim Steiner also confirmed that the etailer had chosen the town of Purfleet in Essex as the site for its fifth customer fulfilment facility.

He said the site was “well positioned” to provide delivery capacity to Ocado customers north of the Thames, and would take roughly two years to be up-and-running.

“Purfleet’s well positioned to serve the geography that we have that has a lot of customers in it that are north of the Thames, as opposed to Eirth and a rebuilt Andover facility that could cover south of the river.”

Steiner also said that initial trials of Ocado’s one-hour delivery service Zoom had “been successful” but wouldn’t be drawn on where the next phase of its rollout would take place, or when.

“All else I’ll say on that is that we’re looking at other locations to expand our Zoom footprint,” he said.