Dobbies 'may be sold' as Tesco swings back into black

The £8.6m Dobbies Garden World in Lisburn opened in September employing 120 people
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SUPERMARKET behemoth Tesco has swung back into the black after unveiling its first quarter of UK sales growth for more than three years, but warned its fightback amid a fierce price war would put profits under pressure.

And as it restructures to focus on its core grocery business, the group is also reportedly planning to sell off its Dobbies Garden Centres chain.

That could mean a change in ownership for its only Dobbies outlet in Northern Ireland.

The £8.6m Dobbies Garden World in Lisburn opened in September employing 120 people in the main garden centre as well as at its farm foodhall and restaurant, and at the time was said to be an integral part of the company’s expansion plans.

The company has declined to comment on the speculated sell-off of Dobbies along with its Harris & Hoole coffee shop and Giraffe restaurant.

Tesco, still the UK's biggest supermarket, cheered "significant progress" in its turnaround battle as it edged out of the red with bottom-line pre-tax profits of £162 million for the year to February 27.

This compares with losses of £6.3 billion the previous year - the worst in its history and one of the biggest losses in UK corporate history.

Chief executive Dave Lewis said the supermarket had been "stabilised" and was no longer in crisis, but he added the group continued to face a "challenging, deflationary and uncertain market".

Tesco's recovery will not be a "straight line", he admitted, and said the job to turn around its fortunes was not yet done.

Its return to annual profit comes after a grim previous year when massive property writedowns sent it slumping more than £6 billion into the red.

On an underlying basis, the latest set of results showed group operating profits of £944 million, up 1.1 per cent on £940 million the previous year, when it reported a 68 per cent slump in trading profits.

It reported a 0.9 per cent rise in UK like-for-like sales in its fourth quarter, which marked its first full quarter of growth since 2013 and follows a bumper Christmas for the group, when it saw a surprise 1.3 per cent jump in sales over the six-week festive season.

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