Tesco's UK sales resume decline

LONDON Wed Dec 4, 2013 2:10am EST

LONDON Dec 4 (Reuters) - Tesco, the world's third-biggest retailer, fell back to an underlying sales decline in its main British market in its third quarter, raising new questions over its recovery strategy.

The firm, which trails France's Carrefour and United States number one Wal-Mart in annual sales, is 20 months into a turnaround plan for its main UK business that has seen over 1 billion pounds ($1.64 billion) invested in store revamps, more staff, new product ranges and pricing initiatives.

It said on Wednesday sales at British stores open over a year, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, fell 1.5 percent in the 13 weeks to Nov. 23.

That compares to analysts' forecasts of down 1-2 percent and flat like-for-like sales reported for the second quarter.

Tesco said total group sales increased 0.6 percent at actual exchange rates, excluding petrol.

Like-for-like sales fell 5.1 percent in Asia and were 4.0 percent lower in the Europe division.

"Despite the challenging conditions in many of our markets, we are performing in line with market expectations for the full year," Tesco said.

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