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U.K. Grocery Sales Growth Slowest Since 2005, Kantar Says

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s grocery market grew at the slowest pace in nine years in the past three months, researcher Kantar Worldpanel said, sending shares of Tesco Plc, J Sainsbury Plc and William Morrison Supermarkets Plc tumbling.

Tesco, the U.K.’s largest retailer, fell as much as 1.7 percent to 318.2 pence in London after Kantar said grocery sales expanded 2.4 percent in the twelve weeks to Feb. 2, down from 2.9 percent growth in the previous three-month period. Figures for the shorter four-week period showed a steeper deceleration.

“Brighter economic prospects are yet to be seen in the nation’s shopping trolleys,” Fraser McKevitt, an analyst at Kantar Worldpanel, said in a statement.

The slowing market is an additional concern for Britain’s four biggest supermarkets, which are losing market share to discounters Aldi and Lidl at one end of the grocery spectrum, and the upscale Waitrose chain at the other. Food retailers are having to contend with slowing grocery inflation, which at 2.1 percent is the lowest since July 2010, according to Kantar.

The growth in 12-week sales was the weakest since 2005, Kantar said. In the four weeks to Feb. 2, the market expanded 0.8 percent, down from 3.4 percent in the previous month, Citigroup Inc. said, citing Kantar data not publicly available.

Sainsbury fell as much as 2.3 percent to 348.1 pence, while Morrison shares slid as much as 1.8 percent to 235.9 pence.

Tesco’s sales declined 0.4 percent in the 12-week period, while Britain’s largest grocer’s market share dropped to 29.2 percent from 30 percent. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Asda saw its share dip to 17.3 percent from 17.7 percent, while Morrison held 11.3 percent of the market, down from 11.8 percent.

Sainsbury’s share rose to 17.1 percent from 17 percent, with Waitrose advancing to 4.9 percent from 4.8 percent. Aldi’s share surged to 4.1 percent from 3.2 percent, while fellow discounter Lidl’s rose to 3.2 percent from 2.8 percent.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Gabi Thesing in London at gthesing@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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