Tesco 'turns corner' after woeful year

Supermarket giant set to appoint long-serving executive as new head of its UK operation as it seeks to put the setbacks of 2012 behind it

The grocery giant Tesco will seek to get on the front foot early in 2013 with the expected hiring of a new chief executive for its UK business, amid signs its domestic operation has turned a corner after a year to forget.

The world's third-biggest retailer has also appointed a new boss for its Malaysian operation: the latest in a long line of management changes.

Chris Bush, Tesco's UK chief operating officer, is the favourite to take over running its UK business. He could be appointed as soon as 10 January, alongside its Christmas trading statement.

The role of UK chief executive has been vacant since Tesco parted company with Richard Brasher in March, which was among many shocks that made 2012 one of the most turbulent in the company's 93-year history.

The supermarket suffered a profit warning in January, unveiled a £1bn investment to turnaround its UK operation, admitted it was "likely" to exit its Fresh & Easy business in the US and saw its first fall in half-year profits for nearly 20 years.

If he lands the UK top job, Tesco lifer Mr Bush – who has previously been chief executive of Tesco Thailand – will lead a business that accounts for two-thirds of the grocer's sales and is critical to getting the group's bottom line heading north again.

But Philip Clarke, the group's chief executive who has been effectively running the UK operation since March, is confident that Tesco has turned around its domestic operation. He recently boasted it was "back on form", which was backed up by Kantar Worldpanel data that showed Tesco's food and drink sales last month had outstripped Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda for the first time since Mr Clarke took the helm in early 2011.

But a weak performance on big-ticket non-food items, such as electricals, dragged down its UK like-for-like sales by 0.6 per cent in the third quarter to 24 November.

In the latest personnel changes, Tesco has poached Georg Fischer from the discounter Lidl to be chief executive of its Malaysian business. Mr Fischer will take the helm in March in Malaysia, which has been one of Tesco's best-performing countries this year, including robust underlying sales growth in its third quarter. At just 38, Mr Fischer would appear to be one to watch at Tesco.

But in the past two years, the grocer's former finance director Andy Higginson, online chief Laura Wade-Gery, Asian boss David Potts and Richard Brasher, who headed the UK arm, have all left.

Tesco also this month parted company with Tim Mason, the chief executive of Fresh & Easy, after announcing a strategic review of its 199-store US operation. Tesco launched the American chain to a fanfare in California, Arizona and Nevada in November 2007, but suffered losses of £850m over that period, despite investing more than £1bn. Alongside its latest results, Mr Clarke said: "It's likely but not certain that our presence in America will come to an end."

Mr Mason, a Tesco veteran who was also the group's deputy chief executive, has left the retailer after Mr Clarke concluded: "I did not think it was appropriate for Tim to lead the review."

Meanwhile, Sainsbury's has sought to nip in the bud speculation that Justin King, its chief executive since 2004, is considering stepping down next year. There is chatter that Mike Coupe, Sainsbury's group commercial director, has been lined up to take the helm, although the rumour is that an orderly handover could see Mr King remain at the grocer until 2014.

But Sainsbury's said on Friday: "This is pure speculation. Justin has made his commitment to the business clear and is excited about the opportunities to grow and develop it. Any discussion of succession is totally premature."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own