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Supermarket giant Tesco is launching a 200 million pounds price war with rival Asda

Supermarket giant Tesco is launching a 200 million pounds price war with rival Asda

Supermarket giant Tesco is launching a 200 million pounds price war with rival Asda

Supermarket giant Tesco is launching a £200 million price war with rival Asda as its chief executive prepares to retire after 14 years at the helm.

The group is lowering prices on more than 1,000 items from Monday and promising to pay shoppers "double the difference" on products found cheaper at Wal-Mart owned Asda.

Its move to up the ante against resurgent competitor Asda comes on the same day that Sir Terry Leahy celebrates his last day in charge - and his 55th birthday.

Sir Terry - hailed as one of Britain's great retailers - will hand over to successor Philip Clarke on Tuesday after transforming the supermarket from the UK's number two chain to the clear market leader and an international force.

Mr Clarke takes over amid a mounting price battle with Asda, which has been leading a sales growth revival with its Asda Price Guarantee - relaunched in January pledging to sell groceries at least 10% cheaper than its major rivals.

Asda last week revealed a robust Christmas trading performance that left rival Tesco in the shade, reporting like-for-like sales up by 2.6% including VAT in the final quarter of 2010 against Tesco's sales rise of 0.6% for its six-week festive period.

Tesco's new front in the price war suggests Mr Clarke is keen to ensure Tesco retains its title as the UK's most successful supermarket player.

Sir Terry, who was knighted in 2002 for his services to food retailing, has overseen a leap in pre-tax profits from £750 million in 1997 to more than £3 billion in the group's last set of annual figures.

The chain now operates in 14 markets internationally - a more than three-fold increase since Sir Terry took over from the then chairman Lord MacLaurin.

A life-long Tesco employee, Sir Terry joined in 1979 and held a number of marketing and commercial positions before being appointed to the board in October 1992 and then chief executive on February 21, 1997.

PA