Tesco attracts some serious talent. It isn’t the location (Cheshunt is twinned, appropriately, with a French town called Stains). It’s the size, ambition, reputation (and pay) of Britain’s largest private sector employer, which ensured that as the likes of John Browett, Dido Harding, Steve Robinson and Julia Reynolds left, Tesco minted more gems.
But add Tim Mason, this week, to the long list of casualties, voluntary or enforced, under Tesco CEO Philip Clarke’s reign - Richard Brasher, David Reid, Andy Higginson, Laura Wade-Gery, Colin Holmes, David Potts, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Michael Fleming (on sabbatical) - and it’s clear the succession plan of CEO Philip Clarke’s predecessor, Sir Terry Leahy, is in shreds.
Not surprisingly, Clarke sees this as an opportunity for the new guard, including Chris Bush, John Scouler and David Wood (while Carolyn Bradley, Andrew Yaxley and Bob Robbins lie, mysteriously, in the long grass). It might be. But as headwinds buffet the business in almost every corner of its international empire, Clarke and his team are looking very exposed.
” The concern is that Tesco is retrenching to a domestic market in which it is failing”
Adam Leyland, Editor
Amid investor euphoria surrounding Clarke’s decision to ‘review’ (ie axe) Fresh & Easy this week, the share price surged some 3.3%. At least it’s one less distraction. But the concern is that Tesco is retrenching to a domestic market in which it is failing, to squeezed margins in an anaemic economy, to a Tesco Direct business that simply can’t compete, to a bank that seems to have missed its opportunity. Where’s the growth - and more importantly, where’s the vision?
Like George Osborne, Philip Clarke has had roughly two years to make his mark, and in both cases we’re still waiting. Five more years of pain, Osborne ‘promised’ us, in his grim prognosis for the economy. Clarke’s outlook is hardly more encouraging, unless a better-than-expected decline in Q3 like-for-likes qualifies. With Tesco’s European businesses treading treacle, it’s the notoriously volatile Asia that will once again have to rescue the Group top line at the prelims.
So enjoy the share price peak while it lasts. And let’s see if more join Lansdowne in shorting the stock.