Ocado shares went on a roller-coaster ride yesterday as the online supermarket was accused of stealing robot technology from a Norwegian company.
The shares had been in positive territory until around midday, when Autostore launched a scathing public attack.
The business revealed a lawsuit against Ocado in the UK and US, which alleges that its technology is actually the foundation of the British firm’s famous robot warehouses.
Ocado has been accused of stealing technology used in its robotic stock pickers (pictured) from a Norwegian rival
The robots at the heart of the dispute have revolutionised the grocery industry, as they allow supermarkets to collate online orders without paying costly staff to manually pick items off shelves.
Autostore’s lawsuit seeks financial damages from Ocado.
Karl Johan Lier, Autostore’s president and chief executive, said: ‘Our ownership of the technology at the heart of Ocado’s warehousing system is clear.
‘We will not tolerate Ocado’s continued infringement of our intellectual property rights in its effort to boost its growth and attempt to transform itself into a global technology company.’
Stock Watch – Iomart Group
Shares in cloud computing firm Iomart Group tumbled as profits were set to fall.
The stock dipped 3 per cent, or 10.5p, to 344.5p after it published an update on the six months to September 30.
Glasgow-based Iomart said it had ‘performed well’ in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, continuing to grow sales from £55.1million to £56million.
But profits would fall from £21.8million to £21million as newer, managed cloud computing products were less profitable than old ones managed by customers.
But Ocado hit back less than two hours later, turning the tables on Autostore. The company said its Ocado Smart Platform technology was protected by patents and it was now investigating whether AutoStore has, or intends to, infringe them.
‘We will always vigorously protect our intellectual property,’ the firm added.
The robot rumpus sent the firm’s shares into a frenzy, falling as much as 6.5 per cent before closing down just 1 per cent, or 26p, at 2718p.
It was a better day for medical equipment giant Smith & Nephew, which was on the rise after revealing that declines in its quarterly revenues had been arrested.
The firm’s shares closed up 2.1 per cent, or 31.14p, at 1536.5p after it said third quarter underlying revenues were expected to be down by 4 per cent compared to a year ago in a trading update.
That would normally sound like bad news, but S&N said it represented a ‘significant recovery’ across its businesses compared to the yearly decline of 29.3 per cent in the second quarter.
The firm, which makes hip and knee replacements, has been hurt by mass cancellations of elective surgeries during the pandemic, as hospitals have scrambled to free up capacity.
But it said its orthopaedics division had bounced back as ‘global levels of elective surgery continued to recover’.
However, analysts at Shore Capital warned there was still ‘a lot of uncertainty’ surrounding the company because of the pandemic.
‘Any second wave of the virus in the winter would likely stunt growth in elective procedures,’ they told clients.
Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 was little changed when the closing bell rang. The blue chip index edged up by just 0.23 per cent, or 13.35 points, to 5879.45 during the day, as the growing Brexit ding-dong between London and Brussels spooked traders.
Oil giant Shell was among the biggest fallers, dipping 3.5 per cent, or 32.9p, to 907.3p, with rival BP sagging 3.1 per cent, or 7p, to 218.2p.
At the same time, the FTSE 250 index of medium-sized firms made only modest gains, rising 0.39 per cent, or 68.16 points, to 17,383.46.
Shares in retirement homes builder McCarthy & Stone rose 6.3 per cent, or 4.4p, to 74.2p after the firm announced a partnership with a not-for-profit organisation.
The agreement with Anchor Hanover, which provides specialist housing and care services to the elderly, will see the pair team up to develop ‘affordable living communities for all’ in England.
They are initially planning 482 units across five sites already owned by McCarthy, worth about £125million.