Five questions answered on Tesco’s profit drop

Still the Uk's biggest chain.

The UK’s biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, has announced a significant drop in profit during the first half of the year. We answer five questions on Tesco’s profit woes.

By how much has Tesco’s profit dropped by?

Today the company reported a 23.3 per cent drop in profits during the first half of its financial year. The company blamed a challenging retail environment, especially in Europe.

The firm’s pre-tax profits in the six months to 24 August were £1.39bn.

UK like-for-like sales, excluding new store openings, fell by 0.5 per cent.

Tesco is a global company, how does this profit fall reflect in different area of its business?

 The supermarket giant said profits fell 67 per cent in Europe to £55m, while Asian profits, excluding China, dropped 7.4 per cent to £314m.

However, UK trading profits rose 1.5 per cent to £1.13bn.

Group profit margins fell from 5.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent.

What has Tesco said about these latest figures?

Chief executive, Philip Clarke, speaking to the BBC said:

"There is less pessimism around, but customers are still not seeing real disposable incomes improve.

"They are, perhaps, feeling a little better about the future.”

What have the experts said?

Neil Saunders, managing director of retail consultants Conlumino, speaking to the news broadcaster said:

"…it is fair to say that Tesco is making some progress, especially on the UK front," he said.

"However, they also indicate some more worrying signs that there are a number of deep seated issues on the international scene that need to be addressed."

How are Tesco’s competitors doing?

In this fiercely competitive market Tesco is still the UK’s biggest chain. However, rival Sainsbury's reported a 2 per cent rise in like-for-like sales during the second quarter of its financial year.

While Aldi saw UK pre-tax profits surge 124 per cent to £157.9m in 2012.

Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King said Sainsbury’s was the only major supermarket chain increasing its market share.

"Our groceries online business grew by over 15 per cent in the quarter and is now worth over £1bn in annual sales." he said.

"Our convenience business grew 20 per cent year-on-year as customers topped up more frequently during the warm summer weather."

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Leader: Theresa May and the resurgence of the state

More than any of her recent predecessors, the Prime Minister seems willing to challenge the economic and political orthodoxies of the past 35 years.

Theresa May entered office in more tumultuous circumstances than any other prime minister since 1945. The UK’s vote to leave the European Union was a remarkable rebuke to the political and business establishment and an outcome for which few had prepared. Mrs May recognised that the result was more than a revolt against Brussels. It reflected a deeper alienation and discontent. Britain’s inequalities of wealth and opportunity, its regional imbalances and its distrusted political class all contributed to the Remain campaign’s ­defeat. As she said in her speech in Birmingham on 11 July: “Make no mistake, the referendum was a vote to leave the European Union, but it was also a vote for serious change.”

When the financial crisis struck in 2007-2008, David Cameron, then leader of the opposition, was caught out. His optimistic, liberal Conservative vision, predicated on permanent economic growth, was ill-suited to recession and his embrace of austerity tainted his “modernising” project. From that moment, the purpose of his premiership was never clear. At times, austerity was presented as an act of pragmatic bookkeeping; at others, as a quest to shrink the state permanently.

By contrast, although Mrs May cautiously supported Remain, the Leave vote reinforced, rather than contradicted, her world-view. As long ago as March 2013, in the speech that signalled her leadership ambitions, she spoke of the need to confront “vested interests in the private sector” and embrace “a more strategic role” for the state. Mrs May has long insisted on the need to limit free movement of people within the ­European Union, and anticipated the causes of the Leave vote. The referendum result made the national reckoning that she had desired inevitable.

More than any of her recent predecessors, the Prime Minister seems willing to challenge the economic and political orthodoxies of the past 35 years. She has promised worker representation on company boards, binding shareholder votes on executive pay, improved corporate governance and stricter controls on foreign takeovers.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has set the ­Labour Party on a similar course, stating in his conference speech that the “winds of globalisation” are “blowing against the belief in the free market and in favour of intervention”. He pointedly criticised governments which did not try to save their domestic steel industries as China dumped cheap steel on to global markets.

We welcome this new mood in politics. As John Gray wrote in our “New Times” special issue last week, by reasserting the role of the state as the final guarantor of social ­cohesion, Mrs May “has broken with the neoliberal model that has ruled British politics since the 1980s”.

The Prime Minister has avoided the hyperactive style of many new leaders, but she has deviated from David Cameron’s agenda in several crucial respects. The target of a national Budget surplus by 2020 was rightly jettisoned (although Mrs May has emphasised her commitment to “living within our means”). Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement on 23 November will be the first test of the government’s ­fiscal boldness. Historically low borrowing costs have strengthened the pre-existing case for infrastructure investment to support growth and spread prosperity.

The greatest political ­challenge facing Mrs May is to manage the divisions within her party. She and her government must maintain adequate access to the European single market, while also gaining meaningful control of immigration. Her statist economic leanings are already being resisted by the free-market fundamentalists on her benches. Like all prime ministers, Mrs May must balance the desire for clarity with the need for unity.

“Brexit means Brexit,” she has repeatedly stated, underlining her commitment to end the UK’s 43-year European
affair. If Mrs May is to be a successful and even transformative prime minister, she must also prove that “serious change” means serious change and a determination to create a society that does not only benefit the fortunate few. 

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories