LONDON, April 29 Tesco, Britain's
biggest retailer, was dealt a fresh blow on Tuesday after
another ratings agency warned of a possible cut to its credit
rating in the wake of its recent poor performance.
Earlier this month Tesco Chief Executive Philip Clarke vowed
to win back shoppers with millions of pounds of price cuts after
the grocer posted a second straight year of falling profits.
Standard & Poors said it had revised its outlook for Tesco's
debt to negative from stable.
"The outlook revision reflects a greater decline in Tesco's
like-for-like sales in the UK than we anticipated, and lower
profitability across its retail operations," it said.
Though S&P affirmed it "BBB+/A-2" long and short-term
corporate credit ratings on Tesco, it believes the firm will
find it hard to reverse the negative market and operating trends
that are adversely affecting its sales and profitability.
It said a continued decline in Tesco's market share, sales
and profit could result in a one-notch downgrade.
The stance by S&P follows one by rival Moody's on Friday to
place its BAA1 rating for Tesco on review for downgrade.
In common with Britain's three other leading grocers -
Wal-Mart's Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons
- Tesco has been hit on two fronts, by the discount
chains Aldi and Lidl and by Waitrose
and Marks & Spencer at the premium end of the
Monthly industry data, published April 8, showed Tesco's UK
market share had shrunk to 28.6 percent, its lowest level in
nearly a decade.
(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Kate Holton)