Tesco plans to make Asia the focus for its international growth as it revealed that almost a third of its sales and a fifth of its profits now come from its international operations.

The retailer, which has sent a crack team including future chief executive Philip Clarke on a three-day visit to Asia, told investors and analysts there that it had great plans for expansion in the region, including a target to quadruple sales in China to £4bn during the next five years.

In South Korea – Tesco’s biggest market outside the UK – sales jumped 6.7% in the nine weeks to the end of October, while sales were up by 8.3% in China and by 18.3% in India, where Tesco has 10 stores.

Tesco now generates 31% of its sales and 22% of its profits abroad, compared with 10% and 5% respectively 10 years ago.

However, forays into some parts of the globe – including the US with its loss-making Fresh & Easy chain – have been a disappointment.

Clarke, currently Tesco’s Asia and Europe director who replaces Sir Terry Leahy as chief executive in March, said Tesco’s international arm was an “increasingly important engine for growth”.

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