Tesco sees profits rise to £1.6bn
Supermarket giant Tesco has unveiled a 12.5% rise in half-year profits to £1.6 billion.
The result came despite "modest" UK sales growth in the 26 weeks to August 28, constrained by higher fuel costs as customers spent more at the pump instead of in store, and due to low food inflation.
Delivering his last set of results, outgoing chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said the retailer - which plans to create 9,000 jobs in the UK this year - was experiencing "the tailwinds of recovery".
The firm said UK like-for-like sales excluding petrol rose 1.3% in the second quarter, compared with 1.1% in the first quarter - but, adjusting for VAT sales, the figure was just 0.3% higher over the half-year.
Finance director Lawrie McIlwee said UK like-for-like sales had been modest because "the economy is pretty stagnant" although there were "signs of a recovery".
He said higher food inflation last year made for tough comparatives, while higher fuel costs meant customers had less to spend in stores.
Looking ahead, Mr McIlwee said "the lapping effect" of inflation was decreasing and customers remained loyal.
He said there are now 16.5 million Clubcard holders in the UK, and added: "Tesco customers seem to be much more loyal than our competitors."
But Mr McIlwee said consumers in the UK still faced great uncertainties.
He said: "We've got the spending review and we've got VAT going up in the second half, but there are signs of a recovery."