Belfast Telegraph

Supermarket troubles dent FTSE 100

Investors checked out of Tesco on Wednesday despite Britain's biggest grocer booking its first UK sales rise in seven years.

The FTSE 100 Index closed down 16.51 point to 7,348.99, with sales cheer at the supermarket being overshadowed by slumping profits linked to its 2014 accounting scandal.

The supermarket giant was the biggest faller on the London market, sinking more than 5% or 11.2p to 184.4p, after statutory pre-tax profits fell to £145 million from £202 million in the year to February 25.

Profits came under pressure as Tesco booked a £235 million exceptional charge in the wake of the accounting debacle, which has seen the firm offer £85 million in compensation to investors and agree a £129 million penalty with the Serious Fraud Office.

The Big Four grocer saw like-for-like UK sales rise 0.9% in the year to February 25, its first annual growth since 2010. Like-for-like food sales in the UK were up 1.3%.

Chief executive Dave Lewis said: " We are confident that we can build on this strong performance in the year ahead, making further progress towards our medium-term ambitions."

Tesco's slide dragged rival firms lower, with Sainsbury's slipping 7.1p to 257.9p and Morrisons dropping 4.1p to 232p.

Across Europe, Germany's Dax rose by 0.1% and the Cac 40 in France slipped marginally lower.

On the currency markets, the pound pushed 0.1% higher against the US dollar at 1.249, but fell short of the psychologically important 1.25 mark.

Sterling was also slightly ahead versus the euro at 1.177, as the UK currency firmed in reaction to the latest slew of employment and wages data from the Office for National Statistics.

Average earnings beat expectations, increasing by 2.3% in the year to February, unchanged from the previous month.

The jobless total was cut by 45,000 in the quarter to February to 1.56 million, a reduction of 141,000 since a year ago and the lowest since the end of 2006.

The price of oil struggled to make headway as US crude inventory data pointed to hefty supply in the market. Brent crude fell by 0.7% to 55.86 US dollars a barrel.

In UK stocks, r ecruitment firm Page Group was the biggest riser on the FTSE 250 Index after notching up record profits despite flagging a Brexit blow to the British hiring market.

The company's UK arm, which comprises 22% of the group's business, saw growth fall back 0.1% in the first quarter, with gross profits coming in flat at £36.4 million.

However, the recruiter said total gross profit in the quarter rose 9% to a record £170.3 million, driven by strong performances in Europe and the Americas.

Shares were up more than 7% or 31.5p to 475.4p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Rolls-Royce up 20p to 830.5p, Mediclinic International up 13p to 736.5p, Sage Group up 11p to 650p, DCC up 115p to 7,180p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Tesco down 11.2p to 184.4p, Rio Tinto down 130.5p to 3,145p, Anglo American down 47.5p to 1,171p, BHP Billiton down 46.5p to 1,268p.