Tesco first half results: Three things to expect from half-year interims and Dave Lewis on Wednesday

Lynsey Barber
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The City awaits Tesco's results this week (Source: Getty)

Tesco is due to reveal first half results on Wednesday, and just over a year on from the supermarket shocking the City with a quarter of a billion-pound black hole in its financials, all eyes are on how far through it really is in turning things around.

With a bulging balance sheet and market share still slipping, can Tesco's sales decline be stemmed again? Here's what to expect.

1. The figures

First quarter sales, revealed at the end of June, offered some hope to the City, when like-for-likes fell just 1.3 per cent - their smallest decline in more than a year.

More of the same would signal slow but steady progress, and HSBC analysts predict the decline could be stemmed to just one per cent this quarter.

In particular investors will be looking at UK sales, where Tesco is experiencing the most pressure from grocery deflation and competition.

Operating profits for the half-year are estimated to come in at £385m, down 58 per cent on last year, according to HSBC.

2. Balance sheet

Investors will be keen for news on the state of Tesco's balance sheets. The sell-off of Homeplus stores in Korea has reduced a debt of around £20bn by approximately a fifth, however, the stalled sale of data arm Dunnhumby could slow momentum and an update on the progress of the deal from boss Dave Lewis will be anticipated.

Shorecap analyst Clive Black called a Dunnhumby deal collapse a "body blow" to Tesco in terms of the balance sheet and warned that its debts are not something that can be traded their way out of since wider trading conditions are worse now than a year ago.

With shares in the retailer now skirting previous lows experienced at the end of last year following a boost from FTSE highs over 2015, a rights issue now would be "like kicking shareholders when they were down" said Accendo's Mike van Dulken.

However, Black says markets expect Tesco to raise money in the bond or equity market at some point. The sale of the "family silver" in Homeplus means it is not an emergency situation, but "if performance was more robust, it would be easier to raise capital," he said.

3. What next?

Amid even tougher market conditions, there's still a long way to go.

Black said while Tesco is "demonstrably more stable" the sense of the size of the job is "proving substantial" and there is more to do in terms of prices, categories and merchandising. Just over 15 months into the job, Dave Lewis has "stabilized the ship very quickly and showed a lot of calm and consideration," said Black but progress was "expected to be a little further on" by now he said.

The glory days of Tesco - and the supermarket sector as a whole - are over, but van Dulken said it can "still grow profits even with declining share".

The lead of Sainsbury's last week with consensus-beating sales and a wholly unexpected upping of profit forecasts for the year, may offer some indication that the beleaguered supermarkets have made some progress in adjusting to the new normal.

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