Tesco has declined to comment on week-end reports that it is preparing a £10bn swoop on parts of Ahold, the stricken Dutch supermarket group.

Meanwhile, Ahold has rejected criticism that it waited too long to tell shareholders about accounts problems, after it emerged that the group made key disclosures to securities regulators days before telling investors.

Gallaher - the maker of Benson & Hedges and Mayfair cigarettes - is expected on Wednesday to report at least a 16% jump in 2002 profits.