Tesco, one of the world’s leading retailers, has put a troubled period behind it with a triumphant return to bumper profits.
Shares rose 11.6p in early trading to 221.9p as investors toasted the first end-year dividend since 2014.
Like-for-like sales – which take account of store openings and closures – rose 2.2 per cent in the UK, and net debt was down by 29.6 per cent to £2.6 billion, from £3.7 billion.
Using the statutory measure, earnings per share rose from 0.81 per cent last time to 12.08p, an astonishing 1,391.4 per cent increase.
Ten years ago, Tesco’s domination of the British retail scene was such that commentators complained the country was turning into “Tescoland”. But problems mounted in the current decade, starting with the failure of its Fresh & Easy grocery chain in the United States. Tesco made a series of errors that suggested it did not understand the differences between the British and American markets.
Much more seriously, in September 2014 Tesco had to tell the stock market that its profit forecast had been overstated by £250 million, largely as a result of commercial income having been booked too early.
Carl Rogberg, aged 51, the ex-UK finance director, Christopher Bush, former managing director of Tesco UK, and John Scouler, former UK food commercial director, were charged with false accounting and fraud. Britain’s Serious Fraud Office will take the case to trial at a date yet to be fixed.