Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner has insisted his deal with Morrisons would have no impact on the contractual relationship with Waitrose as the latter instructs its lawyers to examine the deal.
Steiner told Retail Week: “It should have only positive impacts. We are their largest customer on the planet and this deal will strengthen our balance sheet, allowing us to improve, attract more customers, accelerate growth and therefore sell more Waitrose groceries and pay them a larger fee.
“I think when the dust settles they might actually see it differently.”
Steiner’s comments came as Waitrose instructed lawyers to scrutinise the deal between Ocado and Morrisons to see if there has been a breach of contract with the John Lewis Partnership-owned grocer.
Waitrose, which has partnered with Ocado since 2000, said it wants to look at the details and assess potenetial implications of the Morrisons deal.
Waitrose said: “We have asked to see the detail of the deal and the operating arrangements. Meanwhile, we have instructed lawyers so that we can get a clear and unequivocal view of the contract and examine what might constitute a breach.
“This process will take some time so we are unlikely to comment again in the near future.”
Waitrose added that it will open a second dark store in spring of 2014 to support its Waitrose.com business. This is expected to raise questions about the future of its relationship with Ocado.
Earlier this week Waitrose managing director Mark Price threatened to veto the tie-up between Ocado and Morrisons.
He said: “I would never knowingly sign a contract with Ocado that agreed to them working with another retail competitor. We have moved to DEFCON 1 because we don’t know where this is going to end up and we are now working on adding considerable extra capacity to Waitrose.com.”
Today analysts speculated that following the deal with Morrisons, Waitrose may choose to terminate its relationship with Ocado in 2017.