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
Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
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

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss