Five questions answered on Tesco’s annual profit drop as it exits US

Fallen for the first time in 20 years.

Supermarket giant Tesco today announced that its annual profits have fallen for the first time in 20 years and that it will exit the US. We answer five questions on Tesco’s current troubles.

How much are Tesco’s profits down by?

The superstore announced today that pre-tax profits were down by 51 per cent to £1.96bn and that post-tax profits, including the cost of the US exit, were down 95.7 per cent to just £120m.

What have Tesco’s UK sales been like?

In the last 3 months Tesco, which is the world’s third-largest supermarket group, has reported a 0.5 per cent increase, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax. Which is a slow down in growth of 1.8 per cent in the six weeks to 5th January, after strong Christmas sales.  

For the last year, Tesco announced that total UK sales rose by 1.8 per cent to just over £48bn, with UK trading profit falling by 8.3 per cent to £2.27bn.

The company said its online grocery division was doing well with “another strong year” after sales grew by 2.8 per cent to £2.3bn.

How much has Tesco’s US exit cost the company?

Exiting its 199 Fresh & Easy stores in the US – which have never made a profit – is expected to cost the supermarket chain £1.2bn.

What other changes has Tesco announced?

As well as exiting the US, Tesco is also ending its operations in Japan, and referring to its China trading it said it would take a more measured approach.

The company has also announced a one-off UK property write-down, in which it has identified 100 sites it bought mainly through the property boom, but no longer plans to develop.

What have Tesco said in relation to these changes?

In a press statement Chief Executive Philip Clarke said:

"The announcements made today are natural consequences of the strategic changes we first began over a year ago and which conclude today. With profound and rapid change in the way consumers live their lives, our objective is to be the best multichannel retailer for customers.

We have set the business on the right track to deliver realistic, sustainable and attractive returns and long-term growth for shareholders. The consequences are non-cash write-offs relating to the United States, from which we today confirm our decision to exit, and for UK property investments which we will not pursue because of our fundamentally different approach to space.

We have also faced external challenges which have affected our performance, notably in Europe and Korea.

Our focus now is on disciplined and targeted investment in those markets with significant growth potential and the opportunity to deliver strong returns."

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Gang of Four’s David Owen says Labour should “proudly and coherently” work with the SNP

The former Labour politician and SDP co-founder tells his old party to “face up to reality” and agree to ally with the SNP.

We don’t have an effective opposition. The question is how to make it effective. I think they should start to discuss with a view to deciding at a conference this summer on its policies. It’s just got to stop for a moment, have a pause on personalities. They’re going to have to return to personalities, they have to have a new leader. But at the moment, the issue should be: let’s get the policies right. I’m sure there are areas in which people want to see changes, but they’re obviously completely incoherent over Europe, so just let that incoherence lie.

If Labour party MPs can’t start to talk about why young people were attracted to Jeremy Corbyn, they won't find the solution. Corbyn – you can trash him like the right-wing press do every day, but they've always done that with every form of Labour leader we've ever had. I’m not defending Corbyn, I don’t think he is the right person to be leader of the Labour party and become Prime Minister.

They've got to widen their base, and they've got to widen it in an election. That doesn't stop the party having more values. The Labour party instinctively, like the country, needs to move a bit more to the left. I'm not afraid of talking more about socialism and social values. I think that would be matching the mood of the country.

Clement Attlee and the Labour party came in in 1945, and shocked everybody, including all the pundits and newspapers – they responded to a mood in the country that wanted a difference. I believe there is a mood in the country that wants a difference. They don’t want recycled Blairism.

You’ve just got to face up to reality. The fundamental thing is, where we slipped up in [the last] election, is that we were not able to answer the question – when they were ravaged and savaged about the SNP – Ed Miliband should've lost his cool. All he said during the attack about working with the SNP was that it ain't going to happen. Well, it obviously was going to happen.

What they needed to say is proudly and completely coherently: if the electorate send a Parliament back which has the SNP in substantial numbers, it is perfectly legitimate for the Labour party to work with them. Health policy – a pretty good step would be to take what’s happening in Scotland and more or less mirror it.

That is the nature of the beast, which is democracy. Even without changing the system of voting, we now have multi-parties, whether we like it or not. We were told the route through was not to create a Social Democratic Party alongside the Liberals, you had to merge with them and that there was no room for more than three political parties in Britain. Well, it’s absolute nonsense. We now have seven, you could argue. We have to live with that reality. You have to be ready to talk to them. You won’t agree with them on separation but you can agree on many other areas, or you certainly should be trying.

I think it’s asking a hell of a lot to be leader of a party, asking to be Prime Minister, when you've never performed yourself in government, you've never held a serious job anywhere else. It's a very, very big thing. He didn't want to be leader of the party, he didn't expect to be leader of the party, he stood on the basis that he was the person they all turned to on the left, and he did it, and he surprised us all. The fact that he won should be a serious message to us. The reason he won is because everybody was totally sick and fed up with the other people. We've got to face up to the fact that this has happened now twice. Is the Labour party going to go on churning out a sort of mollified form of Blairism?

David Owen is an independent social democratic peer and co-founder of the SDP.

As told to Anoosh Chakelian.

Lord Owen was Foreign Secretary 1977-79, a founder-member of the SDP and is now a crossbench peer.

This article first appeared in the 30 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Wanted: an opposition