Ocado shares have surged amid speculation that the online grocer might be the subject of takeover talks from Amazon or another US tech firm.
Ocado and Amazon declined to comment on the report in the Times, which sent shares in the struggling firm up more than 40% at one point.
They settled more than 30% higher.
Ocado was a market darling during the pandemic, ranking as the UK’s most valuable retailer, despite commanding a tiny fraction of purchases.
But views of the company have soured sharply as it grapples with the return of in-store shopping and rising prices.
Its share price has plummeted about 80% from its peak in 2020.
Analysts said that drop could make it a potentially attractive target for acquisition.
Under UK takeover rules, companies seriously exploring such moves typically have to disclose their interest to investors.
Amazon has been pushing to expand its grocery business for years, buying up Whole Foods and experimenting with till-less stores. In the UK, it owns a 16% stake in Deliveroo, a deal that only barely escaped objection from the UK competition authority.
In his annual letter to investors in April, chief executive Andy Jassy called grocery a “big growth opportunity” but said the firm was still looking for the right model. He has argued that the company will need to have a “mass physical offering” to become the major player it aspires to be.
Ocado was founded by three Goldman Sachs bankers in 2000, and started trading as a business in partnership with Waitrose in 2002.
Today its retail arm, a partnership with Marks & Spencer, counts just shy of one million active customers (as of the end of February), claiming about 12% of the UK online grocery market.
As well as delivering in the UK, the company has sold its technology to grocers around the world, including Krogers in the US, Casino in France and Aeon in Japan.
But it reported a hefty £500m pre-tax loss for 2022. At the time it said the downturn was a result of the “cost-of-living crisis compounding the impact of a return to more normal customer behaviours compared with lockdown restrictions in the prior year”.