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

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Boris Johnson isn't risking his political life over Heathrow

The anti-Heathrow campaigner was never a committed environmentalist. 

A government announcement on expanding London’s airports is expected today, and while opposition forces have been rallying against the expected outcome - a third runway at Heathrow - the decision could also be a divisive one for the ruling Conservative party. A long consultation period will allow these divisions to fester. 

Reports suggest that up to 60 Conservative MPs are against expansion at the Heathrow site. The Prime Minister’s own constituents are threatening legal action, and the former London mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, has promised to step down as MP for Richmond rather than let the airport develop.

But what of Boris Johnson? The politician long synonymous with Heathrow opposition - including a threat to lie down “in front of those bulldozers” - is expected to call the decision a mistake. But for a man unafraid to dangle from a zipwire, he has become unusually reticent on the subject.

The reticence has partly been imposed upon him. In a letter to her cabinet ministers, Theresa May has granted them freedom from the usual rules of collective responsibility (under which cabinet ministers are required to support government positions). But she has also requested that they refrain from speaking out in the Commons, from “actively” campaigning against her position, and from calling “into question the decision making process itself”.  

Johnson is not about to start cheering for Heathrow. But unlike Goldsmith, he is no committed environmentalist - and he's certainly a committed politician.  

Boris’s objections to the expansion at Heathrow have all too often only extended as far as the lives of his London constituents. These local impacts are not to be belittled – in his role of mayor of London, he rightly pointed to the extreme health risks of increased noise and air pollution. And his charisma and profile have also boosted community campaigns around these issues. 

But when it comes to reducing emissions, Johnson is complacent. He may have come a long way since a 2013 Telegraph article in which he questioned whether global warming was real. Yet his plan to build an alternative “hub” airport in the Thames Estuary would have left the question of cutting UK aviation emissions worryingly un-resolved. This lack of curiosity is alarming considering his current job as foreign secretary. 

And there are reasons to be concerned. According to Cait Hewitt at the Aviation Environment Federation, the UK fails to meet its targets for CO2 reduction. And the recent UN deal on aviation emission mitigation doesn’t even meet the commitments of the UK’s own Climate Change Act, let alone the more stringent demands of the Paris Agreement. “Deciding that we’re going to do something that we know is going to make a problem worse, before we’ve got an answer, is the wrong move”, said Hewitt.

There is a local environmental argument too. Donnachadh McCarthy, a spokesperson from the activist group “Rising Up”, says the pollution could affect Londoners' health: "With 70 per cent of flights taken just by 15 per cent of the UK's population... this is just not acceptable in a civilised democracy.”

The way Johnson tells it, his reason for staying in government is a pragmatic one. “I think I'd be better off staying in parliament to fight the case, frankly," he told LBC Radio in 2015. And he's right that, whatever the government’s position, the new “national policy statement” to authorise the project will likely face a year-long public consultation before a parliamentary vote in late 2017 or early 2018. Even then the application will still face a lengthy planning policy stage and possible judicial review. 

But if the foreign secretary does fight this quietly, in the back rooms of power, it is not just a loss to his constituents. It means the wider inconsistencies of his position can be brushed aside - rather than exposed and explored, and safely brought down to ground. 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.