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UPDATE 2-Just Eat Takeaway orders surge as eating at home booms during pandemic

* Orders surge 79% in first quarter

* Company sees demand from restaurants only able to do takeaway

* Britain is standout market in Q1

* Shares rise 2.4% in early trade (Updates after CEO remarks at press conference)

AMSTERDAM, April 13 (Reuters) - Food delivery company Just Eat Takeaway.com said its orders jumped by 79% in the first quarter, nearly double its forecast growth rate, as a boom in eating at home during the coronavirus pandemic continued in Britain and other markets.

The Amsterdam-based company, which made a loss last year and says it is prioritising investment over profitability, also said on Tuesday that it expects orders to grow for the rest of 2021 even when coronavirus restrictions ease.

Takeaway had indicated expected growth in first-quarter orders of more than 42% in its full-year 2020 earnings report in March.

CEO Jitse Groen told reporters that Britain had been a standout market in the wake of the company’s acquisition last April of Just Eat for $7.8 billion.

Just Eat Takeaway.com racked up 63.8 million orders in Britain in the first quarter, a 96% surge from the combined orders of Takeaway and Just Eat in the first quarter of 2020. Demand was helped by many restaurants using food delivery services for the first time as they were only allowed to open for takeout meals during the pandemic.

“That’s a big increase and in absolute terms that increase would comfortably fit the (size of) the competition,” Groen said.

“Whether that means the competition is weakening, well the competition has raised quite some money,” Groen said. “In the end this is about scale and if somebody is much bigger than you and pulling away at twice the speed you’re not going to overtake that player.”

Takeaway competes in Britain with smaller rivals Uber Eats and Deliveroo, which saw its share price flop after its March 31 IPO.

Takeaway, which reports first-quarter earnings on May 12, did not issue an earnings outlook, but noted it intended to sacrifice profitability to win market share.

In March, Takeaway reported a net loss of 151 million euros for 2020.

Takeaway’s shares rose 2.4% to 86.83 euros in early Amsterdam trading on Tuesday, but were down 6% in the year to date.

Takeaway also said it still anticipates that its proposed acquisition of U.S. peer Grubhub in a $7.3 billion deal will be completed in the first half of 2021. (Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kim Coghill, Uttaresh.V and Susan Fenton)

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