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Tesco quits US as net dips, a first in 20 yrs

Reuters  London, April 17, 2013
First Published: 22:33 IST(17/4/2013) | Last Updated: 22:34 IST(17/4/2013)

Britain's biggest retailer, Tesco, wrote down the value of its global operations by $3.5 billion and announced plans to exit the US, as it sought to rebuild after a year in which profit fell for the first time in two decades.

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The group, the world's third largest retailer after Wal-Mart and Carrefour, said on Wednesday that abandoning loss-making Fresh & Easy in the US would mean restructuring and other one-off costs of £1 billion ($1.5 billion).

Tesco also wrote down the value of its UK property by £804 million, reflecting a decision not to develop more than 100 sites, and its businesses in Poland, the Czech Republic and Turkey by £495 million, to account for a sharp slowdown in demand.

Though CEO Philip Clarke hailed Tesco's fourth quarter performance in its home market as its best quarterly outcome in three years, it still was a slowdown in growth since Christmas, despite a year of huge investment.

"We've closed the gap in the (UK) market, at times we've outperformed it," Clarke said.

Shares in Tesco, up 24% over the last three months, were down 3% in early trade, valuing the business at £30 billion.

Tesco made a statutory pretax profit of £1.96 billion in the year to February 13, down 51.5%.

It also reported a 14.5% fall in underlying full-year profit to £3.55 billion, reflecting the cost of a £1 billion turnaround plan for its home market, launched after a shock profit warning in January last year.

Earnings were also hit by the impact of the euro zone debt crisis on eastern European markets, restrictions on store opening times in South Korea, and the Fresh & Easy losses.

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