Tesco profits down almost a third but sales growth rises

Tesco saw its bottom line suffer from the plan to lower prices
Tesco saw its bottom line suffer from the plan to lower prices
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Tesco half-year profits dropped by more than a quarter, but the business notched up a third quarter in a row of sales growth as its turnaround gathers pace.

The group posted a 28.3% fall in bottom-line pre-tax profits to £71 million for the six months to August 26 after being hit amid the sector’s fierce price war.

Its fightback against the discounters helped UK like-for-like sales surge by 0.9% in the second quarter.

Chief executive Dave Lewis outlined plans to slash costs by £1.5 billion to help get profits back on track.

Mr Lewis said the cost-cutting plans would not affect staff, with savings instead being made across areas including the company’s distribution system and store operating model.

He said the group’s recovery was gaining traction, but cautioned that the market remains “challenging and uncertain”.

Tesco’s second-quarter like-for-like sales growth across the UK and Ireland marks a sharp increase on the 0.3% rise seen in the previous three months and comes after a major investment in price cuts.

But Tesco saw its bottom line suffer from the plan to lower prices, including the recent launch of its new Farm Brands range.

On an underlying basis, UK and Ireland first-half earnings more than doubled to £389m from £164m a year earlier, while group earnings lifted 60.2% to £596m.

The group said it was yet to see an impact from Brexit or the falling pound on the business or costs, but revealed the fallout from the referendum result has sent its pension scheme funding gap ballooning by £3.2bn to £5.9bn.

Tesco shares surged by as much as 9% after the group’s better-than-expected sales performance.