Shares in UK supermarket brand Sainsbury’s surged more than five per cent on Wednesday after the firm reported better-than-expected earnings for the year and said it would up its investment in technology.

Although like-for-like sales dipped 0.2 per cent to £32.4bn, the company reported at 7.8 per cent rise in underlying pretax profit to £635m.

The supermarket group also reduced its debts by £222m and rewarded patient investors with a 7.8 per cent hike in the full year dividend of 11p per share.

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Chief executive, Mike Coupe, noted that £4.7bn of Sainsbury’s sales now start online and that the firm would be speeding up its investment in technology.

“We will increase and accelerate investment in the core business, investing to improve over 400 supermarkets this year”, Coupe said.

“£4.7 billion of our revenue now comes from our online businesses and we are increasing investment in technology to make shopping across Sainsbury’s, Argos and Sainsbury’s Bank as quick and convenient as possible.

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“We will also continue to strengthen our balance sheet and are making a new commitment to reduce net debt by at least £600 million over the next three years.”

Technology commitment: Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe accelerating technology roll out

As reported by Prolific London on Tuesday, Sainsbury became the first supermarket group in the country to trial checkout free stores.

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The company has also rolled out its SmartShop self-scan technology to over 100 supermarkets; made its Pay@Browse system available in 162 Argos stores enabling customers to pay without queuing.

It is also trialling digital Nectar in Wales ahead of a broader roll-out later in the year.

Last week the UK’s competition regulator ruled against a planned merger between Sainsbury and rival grocery chain Asda. The company said failed merger cost it £46m in transaction costs.