Ocado stock sinks as warehouse fire forces order cancellations

·2-min read
A delivery driver for Ocado online supermarket delivers a shopping order in Ironbridge, Shropshire the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)
Deliveries from Ocado's Erith site were put on hold as it dealt with a fire. Photo: Nick Potts/PA via Getty

Shares in online grocer Ocado (OCDO.L) sank more than 3% on Monday morning, as investors digested news of a warehouse fire in one of its fulfilment centres in London. 

The company said the fire started following a collision of robots that help pick its groceries. Around 800 staff were evacuated from the Erith site, which handles up to 150,000 orders a week. 

The BBC reported that firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze. 

Ocado said in a statement that the damage is "limited to a small section of less than 1% of the grid having been contained by planned fire attenuation measures."

It said the fire would cause disruption to operations but that it is working to restore normal service as soon as possible. 

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"We expect the facility to begin operating within the coming week and thank customers whose orders are affected for their patience," it said.

"We would like to also thank the London Fire Brigade and all the other emergency services for their hard work and professionalism in dealing with this incident."

Ocado stock continued its descent on Monday morning in London -- a fifth day of losses. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK
Ocado stock continued its descent on Monday morning in London -- a fifth day of losses. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

This isn't the first time Ocado has had to deal with a fire caused by robots. In 2019, a facility in Andover burned down following an electrical fault involving a battery unit.

At the time the fire raged for four days and completely destroyed the unit, putting out of action a plant that processed 30,000 orders a week.

Stock was trading 3.1% lower by 9am in London, extending a losing streak for the grocer. In 2021 alone Ocado stock is down around 23%.

In a recent update, Ocado said its retail revenues — which covers its joint venture with Marks and Spencer (MKS.L) – had grown 19.8% to £1.2bn in the six months to 30 May.

However, it added: "With the easing of social distancing restrictions meaning fewer meals consumed at home, basket sizes in the second quarter have begun to move toward pre-Covid-19 levels, exiting the period 10% lower than the average for the half."

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