Tesco admitted that sales have suffered in the past few days due to the severe weather but insisted that its UK performance had gained momentum over the past quarter.

Like-for-like sales were up 1.5% in the UK over the three months to 27 November, with overall UK sales up 5%.

“Like-for-like sales in the UK will get more positive," said finance director Laurie McIlwee.

"There's a good, steady, slow recovery going on in the UK. It's hard to call what the fourth quarter will be like, but it will be an improvement in like-for-like sales and we still feel there's good growth for us in the UK."

Across the group, total sales were up by 8.8%, driven by rapid growth overseas.

The Asian business notched up growth of more than 23%, while like-for-like sales in the US, where Tesco has historically struggled to turn a profit, were up almost 10%.

“We’ve made good progress in the third quarter with growth from across the group,” said chief executive Sir Terry Leahy. “Our continued investment in the shopping trip and our new space-opening programme are giving us good sales momentum and market share gains.

“As the global economic recovery gathers pace, our broad-based strategy, combined with our ongoing focus on productivity savings, is enabling us to maintain growth in a sustainable, profitable way.”

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