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Sainsbury Wins Supermarket Share Battle Amid Horse Scandal

J Sainsbury Plc was the only one of the four biggest U.K. supermarket chains to win market share as the industry was roiled by Europe’s horse-meat scandal, according to figures from researcher Kantar Worldpanel.

Spending at Sainsbury, which said it didn’t find traces of horse meat in any of its products, rose 4.6 percent in the 12 weeks ended Feb. 17 and market share increased to 17 percent from 16.9 percent a year earlier, Kantar said. William Morrison Supermarkets Plc continued to be the main loser, with spending falling 1.3 percent as the chain lost ground to discounters.

Today’s figures are the first to show how shoppers reacted to the mislabeling of beef products since the scandal broke in mid-January and which has now engulfed all of Europe.

“The issue has so far only affected the performance of individual markets rather than where consumers are choosing to shop,” Edward Garner, a director at Kantar Worldpanel, said in a statement. Sales of frozen beef burgers fell 43 percent in the four weeks ended Feb. 17, while sales of frozen ready meals declined by 13 percent, according to the researcher.

A drop in market share at Tesco Plc, the U.K.’s biggest supermarket company, was due to a reduced level of promotions rather than mislabeled beef products, Kantar said. A year ago, the Cheshunt, England-based retailer was offering customers a 5-pound ($7.57) voucher for every 40 pounds they spent, it said. Tesco’s share of U.K. grocery spending declined to 29.7 percent in the 12-week period from 30.1 percent a year earlier.

Morrison Decline

Morrison’s market share slipped to 11.8 percent from 12.4 percent a year earlier.

The Bradford, England-based retailer has been processing more meat and fresh food itself, leaving it less exposed than some supermarkets to food adulteration. Even so, the shares are down almost 10 percent over the past year as analysts say the company is lagging behind rivals on convenience stores and a limited online offering.

“The data for Morrison is quite bad,” said Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital in Liverpool. “The weight of bad Christmas trading will have dragged down any potential uptick from the horse-meat crisis. If data in the coming weeks does not confirm they did well out of the horse-meat crisis, Morrison really has a problem.”

The company ramped up its expansion into convenience stores by acquiring 62 stores from the administrators of HMV Group Plc, Blockbuster Entertainment Ltd. and Jessops Plc and is on track to exceed its target of operating 70 convenience stores by the end of 2013, Morrison said in a statement today.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda also saw its share drop to 17.7 percent from 17.8 percent as the upscale Waitrose chain and discounters Aldi and Lidl made inroads.

Waitrose’s share rose to 4.8 percent from 4.6 percent a year earlier. Aldi increased its share to 3.3 percent from 2.6 percent and Lidl to 2.8 percent from 2.6 percent.

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