Tesco sees tough year ahead as profit falls

LONDON, April 16 Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:09am EDT

LONDON, April 16 (Reuters) - Britain's biggest retailer Tesco said it expected tough trading to continue as it posted a 6 percent fall in annual profit, its second straight year of decline.

The world's third-largest retailer said on Wednesday group trading profit for the year to February 22 was 3.3 billion pounds ($5.52 billion), in line with analysts' forecasts of 3.24 billion pounds but down on the 3.45 billion posted in 2012-13.

Sales at British stores open over a year, excluding fuel and VAT sales tax, fell 3.0 percent in its fourth quarter, the sharpest quarterly drop recorded during Chief Executive Phil Clarke's three year tenure.

The decline increases the heat on Clarke, two years into a turnaround plan which despite billions spent has failed to stop its core British market share slipping to a near 10 year low under pressure from hard discounters Aldi and Lidl and upmarket grocers Waitrose and Marks & Spencer.

($1 = 0.5977 British Pounds) (Reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by Kate Holton)

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