Tesco Jumps as Christmas Sales Rally 3.8%


LONDON -- The shares of Tesco rallied 10 pence, or 3%, to 359 pence during early London trade this morning after the supermarket said its total sales had increased by 3.8% during the Christmas period.

Philip Clarke, Tesco's chief executive, claimed the group had "performed broadly in-line" with his expectations during the six weeks to Jan. 5, with the chain's progress being supported by a "much stronger food performance" and its best-ever week for online sales.

In the U.K., Tesco's like-for-like festive sales advanced by 1.8%, which the FTSE 100 member claimed was its "strongest rate of growth for three years."

However, the overall like-for-like performance for the third quarter was minus 0.6%, which contrasted with the positive 1.5% recorded yesterday by rival J. Sainsbury.

Clarke added: "We are just nine months into the implementation of our six-part plan, which is about Building a Better Tesco in the U.K. for the long-term. Whilst our seasonal performance is encouraging, there is a lot more to do and the team is focused on delivering further improvements for customers in 2013."

Tesco's international division reported total third-quarter sales growth of 3.4%, although the like-for-like number was minus 2%. Total sales climbed 8% within Asia, but fell a fraction in Europe.

Prior to today, City experts were expecting current-year earnings to fall from 37 pence to about 31 pence per share and the dividend to remain at 14.8 pence per share. Those projections presently place the shares on a P/E of 11.5 and yield of 4.1%.

Of course, whether today's Christmas update, that share-price valuation, and the general outlook for the supermarket sector combine to make Tesco a buy remains your decision.

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