Two of the biggest figures in UK grocery are locked in a war of words after Justin King (pictured) hit back at claims by Sir Terry Leahy that Tesco was outperforming Sainsbury’s.

The Sainsbury’s chief executive said he “did not recognise” suggestions by Leahy that Tesco was growing faster than his supermarket.

As Tesco announced its latest sales figures on Tuesday, Leahy claimed the UK’s largest retailer had “matched and overtaken” the like-for-like sales of rivals – prompting King to hit back as Sainsbury’s announced its own figures yesterday.

“All I will say is that no figures were quoted,” said King. “It was a throwaway remark about industry figures that are confidential. I am not going to comment on individual weeks and months.”

Tesco saw its profits edge up by 1.5% to £1.4bn, while like-for-like sales were up 2.7%. Sainsbury’s yesterday said it had achieved like-for-like growth of 4.6% for past three months – down from a rate of 7% for the previous quarter.