A fund headed by former UK chancellor George Osborne, and supported by the Agnelli family of Italy, has increased its stakes in Ocado’s online supermarket and robotics business to more than 5 percent.
Lingotto Investment Management is a $3bn company owned by Exor, the holding company of the Agnelli family. The firm disclosed its position in regulatory filings made on Monday. speculation was made last week about Ocado being a potential target for technology firms such as Amazon.
Matteo Scolari is the manager of public investments at Lingotto. He oversees Lingotto’s Ocado. The company created the position in 2017.
Ocado didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
John Elkann is the chair of Stellantis, and the scion from the Agnelli industrial family. In his latest annual letter to shareholders, he wrote that Ocado was the biggest drag on the performance of the portfolio in 2022 “as consumers returned to work, online grocery shopping became more normalized”. He said Scolari took advantage of the fall in Ocado share price to increase his investment.
Ocado is one of the London stock market’s most shorted companies. It is known for its online grocery business in the UK, but its future depends on its ability to sell its robotic warehouses, such as Kroger, to traditional supermarkets in the US, to help them improve their ecommerce credentials.
The shares are down by 81 percent since the record set in September 2020, as online shopping boomed due to pandemics. It reported the largest pre-tax loss in its 23 year history, PS501mn, for the entire year. The 50-50 joint venture between Marks and Spencer was also in the red.
Ocado, as well as Amazon, declined to comment on the report last week of possible bid interest. However Ocado shares soared by over a third after the rumours.
Elkann wrote: “Despite this challenging environment, Ocado unveiled a number of bold innovations that together resulted in a noticeable reduction in costs, improved flexibility, and increased productivity. This puts Ocado’s solution well ahead of the competition.”
Lingotto, who was appointed chair last month, has Osborne as his successor. Osborne led the Treasury from 2010 to 2016.