UK supermarket Morrisons names former Carrefour France boss as new CEO

By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) -British supermarket group Morrisons has named Rami Baitiéh, formerly the boss of Carrefour France, as its new chief executive, succeeding industry veteran David Potts, who is stepping down after nine years in the job.

Baitiéh will take up the role in November and work with Potts during a handover period, Morrisons said on Wednesday.

Potts led a turnaround at the Bradford, northern England, based group, steered it through the pandemic and expanded its convenience store business through the acquisition of McColl’s, although its performance has lagged major rivals recently.

Morrisons said Baitiéh, who announced his departure from Carrefour in August, had a record of improving competitiveness, expanding market share and accelerating growth in his more than a quarter of a century at the French group.

Morrisons was taken over for 7 billion pounds ($8.5 billion) by U.S. private equity group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in 2021. This gave it a hefty debt burden, which currently stands at about 5.4 billion pounds.

The company has a UK grocery market share of just under 9% but differs from its main rivals in that it also has its own production operations, making half of the fresh food it sells.

“Rami will bring energy, innovation, and dedication to expanding Morrisons loyalty programmes and digital reach, while ensuring that the company’s long legacy of quality, and mission to deliver value for shoppers, is preserved,” Terry Leahy, senior advisor at CD&R, said.

Monthly industry data shows Morrisons underperforming rivals, including market leader Tesco and No. 2 Sainsbury’s. Last year, Morrisons was overtaken as Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket by market share by German-owned discounter Aldi, according to researcher Kantar.

On Wednesday, Morrisons also updated on trading in its third quarter to July 30, which showed an improving trend.

It said underlying sales rose 2.9%, having been up 1% in the previous quarter, and it kept guidance for full year core earnings, or EBITDA, to be higher than the 828 million pounds made in 2021/22. Debt is also forecast to be lower year-on-year.

Morrisons said its competitive position was improving, with its prices rising at a rate below the wider market and its loyalty programme enhanced. Some 200 million pounds of cost savings have also been made so far this year.

“Although inflation has been uncomfortably high, there have also been some very welcome recent signs of a decrease in inflationary pressures,” said finance chief Jo Goff.

($1 = 0.8243 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Sarah Young and Mark Potter)