Tesco boss under growing pressure as profits fall

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TESCO boss Philip Clarke insisted he is staying put after Britain’s biggest supermarket revealed a second year in a row of falling profits and a deepening deterioration in UK sales.

The embattled chief executive brushed off speculation about his future despite there being no signs that his £1bn plan to turn around the retail juggernaut was bearing fruit.

Underlying pre-tax profits fell 6.9 per cent to £3.05bn for the year to February 22 while fourth-quarter like-for-like sales slumped by three per cent, after a 1.5 per cent fall in the third quarter.

The group admitted the performance was “not where we had planned it to be” and warned that the challenging environment would continue.

It faces an unwanted hat-trick of annual declines, as it admitted profits were expected to fall again for the current financial year, and there is growing disquiet among some in the City over the chief executive’s leadership.

But Mr Clarke, who is in his 40th year at the supermarket after working his way up from the shop floor to take over as boss three years ago, said: “I have got no intention of going anywhere.

“All my waking hours are spent running Tesco. It’s what I love. I’m going to see this thing through.”

He added: “Our results today reflect the challenges we face in a trading environment which is changing more rapidly than ever before. We are determined to lead the industry in this period of change.”

Tesco is facing a looming price war with its major rivals as they face up to a permanent threat from discounters Aldi and Lidl, which continue to gnaw at their market shares despite improving economic conditions.

Mr Clarke said a previously-announced investment of £200m in price cuts was “just a start” but it would be “reckless” to disclose the scale of any further investment in the wake of a pledge by Bradford-based Morrisons to plough £1bn into increasing value for shoppers over three years. Tesco says it has already cut the cost of staples including butter, milk and eggs by an average of 24 per cent and Mr Clarke said customers would see more prices coming down in the weeks and months ahead

Tanja Lichtensteiger.

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