Darren Blackhurst, the former Asda trading director who exited the business suddenly at the start of the month, is understood to be having informal conversations about a role at rival grocer Morrisons.

Blackhurst, who was at Asda for four years, is thought to be discussing a post at Morrisons among other options. He is well regarded as a trading director and prior to Asda he was with Tesco, latterly within its Thailand operation.

A source close to the situation said Blackhurst was keen on Morrisons but was also looking at other possibilities. Over the long term he is also thought to be interested in an international role.

A potential hiring at Morrisons suggests new chief executive Dalton Philips is considering beefing up his team. The Morrisons directors are mostly long-serving and predate previous chief executive Marc Bolland.

Group retail director Mark Gunter has been with the business 24 years while group trading director Martyn Jones has been with the company for 20. Both were close lieutenants of founder Sir Ken Morrison and are the only key players to survive from his reign.

Finance director Richard Pennycook is understood to have struck up a good relationship with Philips and is reported to have had his remuneration package increased to secure his services after he missed out on the top job when Philips

was appointed.

Philips, who joined the grocer in March from Canadian retailer Loblaw, will give his initial thoughts on strategy to the City at the time of its September update.

Morrisons has been a star performer over the past year but, as with all food retailers, growth has slowed this year. Its last update showed like-for-like sales were up just 0.8%.

Philips will be keen to keep up momentum while making his mark at Morrisons. The food business is on track but he still has some big decisions to make on issues such as online food shopping, non-food, and convenience stores.

Morrisons declined to comment.