Sainsbury's is to spend £553m buying back the company it set up to help with its IT overhaul, with the aim of saving £25m a year.
The supermarket giant announced that it will purchase Swan Infrastructure Plc, an intermediary company set up in November 2000 to manage Sainsbury's IT transformation programme.
Sainsbury's claims that by buying Swan, along with IT assets including PCs, servers, supply chain packages and in-store point of sale technology, it can save £25m through better accounting practices.
Accenture will continue servicing Sainsbury's IT operations in its 506 stores and distribution centres, after agreeing a three-year extension to the contract at reduced costs in November 2003.
The firm was awarded the seven-year outsourcing contract in 2000, as part of the supermarket's radical IT modernisation programme which saw around 800 IT employees transfer to the consulting firm.
Sainsbury's said that no jobs would be affected by the Swan acquisition.
"Our IT services will carry on being serviced by Accenture. We would not have extended the deal last November if we had any concerns about them," said a spokeswoman for Sainsbury's.
The company claimed that it could save £25m a year by removing an existing fee for operational IT services, capital expenditure, debt servicing and repayment.
However, analyst firm Ovum Holway referred to the deal as "financial smoke and mirrors" aimed purely at simplifying Sainsbury's relationship with Accenture.
"It is unusual because usually part of outsourcing is to get rid of assets," said Anthony Miller, research director at Ovum Holway.
"It is not unusual to see a third-party vehicle like Swan set up to take assets off the books, but it is weird to see them transferred back."
Sainsbury's insisted that now was the right time to repurchase the IT assets, as it was nearing the end of its IT transformation aimed helping the company gain market share against rival Tesco.
The radical IT overhaul has seen Accenture roll out new in-store systems including 14,100 tills and 5,800 PCs.
Distribution centres at Hams Hall, Waltham Point, Stoke and New Hoddesdon have been automated, and Retek merchandising and demand forecasting systems have been installed.
Sainsbury's maintained that the cost savings, and a direct commercial relationship with Accenture, would provide additional resources to invest in innovation to improve competitive advantage and customer experience.
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