UK retailer Sainsbury's has dismissed reports its chief executive Justin King could step down from his role in February.

According to Bloomberg, the supermarket could announce the departure of King as early as February, people familiar with the matter told the publication. However, he could potentially stay on until 2014 to ensure a "smooth handover", Bloomberg noted.

Sainsbury's commercial director Mike Coupe is said to be leading a race to succeed King as head of the UK's third-largest retailer, but other candidates are said to be being considered, the publication added.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury's, however, said: "This is pure speculation. Justin has made his commitment to the business clear and is excited about the opportunities to grow and develop it. Any discussion of succession is totally premature."

King has been at the helm of Sainsbury's for almost nine years. Speaking to reporters after Sainsbury's reported its half-year results last month, he was asked if he had any plans to step down in the next 12 months. "No," King replied.

Coupe joined Sainsbury's as trading director in 2004 from Big Food Group. Prior to that he worked for both Asda and Tesco, where he served in a variety of senior management roles. He was appointed to his current role in July 2010.