Tesco beats rivals for first time under Clarke

The chief executive of Tesco has been boosted by industry data showing the supermarket giant has delivered sales growth ahead of Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons for the first time since he took the helm nearly two years ago.

But alongside its third-quarter results today, Philip Clarke will come under renewed pressure to take decisive action over its US operation. Fresh & Easy is expected to post slower sales growth in the quarter and has not made a profit since launching in California in November 2007.

In the UK, Mr Clarke is likely to blame a sluggish performance in non-food, which is being hit by a squeeze on household budgets, for a fall of up to 1 per cent in its like-for-like sales over the 13 weeks to 24 November.

While this will mark a deterioration on the 0.1 per cent rise in its second quarter, Mr Clarke is expected to point to Tesco outperforming its big UK rivals over recent weeks. According to Kantar Worldpanel data seen by i, the UK's biggest retailer grew food and drink sales by 5.6 per cent over the four weeks to 25 November, compared with 3.6 per cent at Sainsbury's and 2.5 per cent at Asda.

Sales fell by 2.1 per cent at Morrisons but rocketed by 32.1 per cent at Aldi.

The figures are a fillip for Mr Clarke, who unveiled a profit warning in January, as turning around Tesco's performance on food, drink and health and beauty is at the heart of its £1bn investment in the UK this year.

Even including non-food, Tesco is understood to have posted total till roll sales up by 2.7 per cent over the four weeks, which is ahead of its rivals for the first time since Mr Clarke took the helm in March 2011.

Tesco posted its first fall in half-yearly profits for 18 years this summer, as it made £1.7bn in the six months to 25 August, 12% less than in 2011.