Now Standard & Poor's puts Tesco on negative credit watch

Emma Haslett
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Tesco shares closed down just 0.8 per cent today (Source: Getty)

It hasn't been a great week for Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis, what with discovering a £250m black hole in his balance sheet, having to suspend four executives, and then being subjected to the humiliation of a series of regulators saying they were "keeping an eye" on the situation.

Now, following in the footsteps of rival Moody's, ratings agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) has put Tesco on negative watch. The agency said it has placed its "'BBB' long-term corporate credit rating and 'A-2' short-term corporate credit rating on... Tesco on CreditWatch with negative implications".

Despite fresh pairs of hands in the form of Lewis himself and new chief financial officer Alan Stewart, formerly of Marks & Spencer, S&P added it had revised down its management and governance assessment from "fair" to "satisfactory".

There was a glimmer of hope:

We currently assess Tesco's business risk profile as "strong" under our criteria because although the group's share of the U.K. market has declined, it is far larger, at 28%, than the market shares of its nearest competitors.

Tesco's "strong" business risk profile also reflects the benefits from its geographic diversification, in particular its presence in Southeast Asia and Europe. However, following Tesco's exit from the U.S. and its joint venture in China, the group's international diversification will, in our view, be less potent.

The other good news? That the decree was issued after the market closed, meaning shares couldn't fall, as they have done over the past few days. Since Monday more than £2bn has been wiped off the company's value - but shares closed just 0.08 per cent down today. So there is a light at the end of the tunnel...

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