UK grocer Morrisons slashes profit expectations

LONDON, March 13 Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:19am EDT

LONDON, March 13 (Reuters) - Britain's fourth biggest grocer Wm Morrison posted its lowest profit in five years, slashed expectations going forward and said it plans to sell off one billion pounds ($1.66 billion) of its 9 billion pound property portfolio.

Morrisons, which trails market leader Tesco, Wal-Mart's Asda and J Sainsbury in annual sales, said on Thursday it now expected an underlying pretax profit in 2014-15 in the range of 325-375 million pounds after charging 65 million pounds of new business development costs and 70 million pounds of one-off, non-recurring costs.

Prior to Thursday's update analysts were on average forecasting an underlying pretax profit of 732 million pounds for 2014-15.

The group also announced more investment in lower prices in response to the traction gained by the hard discounters, Aldi and Lidl and moves by its "big four" rivals.

It plans to invest 300 million pounds in its core supermarket business in 2014-15.

Morrisons made a profit before tax and one-off items of 785 million pounds in the year to Feb. 2.

That compared with analysts' forecasts in a range of 734-805 million pounds and was down 13 percent on the 901 million pounds made in the 2012-13 year.

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