Tesco looks to China as profits dive in Europe

Tesco looks to China as profits dive in Europe
Shopping at Tesco in Johor Bahru.

LONDON - Britain's biggest retailer Tesco agreed a major deal on Wednesday to create a retail giant in China, as it seeks to offset "challenging" trading conditions in Europe which hit profits hard.

Tesco will create a joint venture with China Resources Enterprise (CRE), it revealed in a statement, alongside news that first-half net earnings slumped by a third on flat revenues, restructuring costs, tough overseas markets and lower profit from property sales.

London-listed Tesco -- the world's third-biggest supermarket group after US retailer Wal-Mart and number two Carrefour of France -- added that the Chinese move was part of its international strategy to tap further into fast-growing economies.

"Tesco and CRE today announce that they have entered into definitive agreements to combine their Chinese retail operations to form the leading multi-format retailer in China," a statement said.

The companies had revealed in August that they were in exclusive talks over a deal.

Hong Kong-listed CRE will have a stake of 80 per cent and Tesco will have 20 per cent, but this can rise to 25 per cent after five years.

"We are delighted to work with CRE to create the leading Chinese retail business," said Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke in the statement.

"Through this deal we have a strong platform in one of the world's most exciting markets and it will move us more quickly to profitability in China.

"This is very good news for customers and shareholders and a further demonstration of our commitment to build sustainable, profitable businesses, establish multichannel leadership in all of our markets and pursue disciplined international growth."

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