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UK web grocer Ocado takes £500k hit after robo-warehouse tech splurge

£36m sunk on developing proprietary software

Middle-class Brit online supermarket nirvana Ocado posted losses of £500,000 for 2017, down from £12m profit the previous year – largely thanks to its "transformation" into a technology provider flogging robot-operated warehouses.

The company splashed £42.8m on technology last year, up from £34.3m the year before. That included costs of £35.7m to develop its own proprietary software, with a further £7.1m (2016: £7.5m) spent on hardware and software.

The biz now employs nearly 1,100 techies, up from 950 staff the previous year. "Replatforming" its tech and the greater use of public and private cloud services were also named as other major areas of investment.

In November, Ocado signed a deal to develop a robotic warehouse for the French supermarket Groupe Casino.

Overall sales rose 12.4 per cent to £1.3bn. The biz said capital expenditure is expected to reach £210m with continued investment in infrastructure and technology playing a large part.

The online grocer is issuing 31,463,500 new shares, representing an additional 5 per cent of share capital, for a total value of £155m. Shares in Ocado dropped 7 per cent on the back of the news.

Chief exec Tim Steiner, of Presidents Club infamy, said: "The last 12 months have been transformational for Ocado."

In the results, the company also bragged about being the first UK grocer to develop Alexa voice-activated services this year.

One can only imagine the ensuing hilarity: "Alexa, order me kale quinoa, no, quinoa, keen-wahh, not quail caviar or snail dauphinois" etc... ®

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