Sainsbury’s has dashed hopes that it might sell off its £8.6bn property portfolio, stressing that property is key to its business.

The supermarket giant, which reported a 42% rise in underlying pretax profits to £380m in the year to 24 March, resisted pressure from 5% shareholder Robert Tchenguiz and 17% shareholder Three Delta, a Qatar-backed investment group, who are understood to be pushing for it to split into an operating business and property company and to return money to shareholders.

Chairman Philip Hampton said: ‘Property has always been at the heart of our business and is closely aligned to our successful operation. Our estate still has considerable development potential which we believe will maximise both operational and freehold property value. As we move from recovery to growth we believe it is right to retain ownership of our properties.’

Sainsbury’s said the net book value of its 292 freehold and leasehold properties, which comprises 286 supermarkets and six distribution depots, was £5.2bn. But the current market value was 65% higher at £8.6bn.