TESCO chief executive Sir Terry Leahy yesterday said that the UK was “past the low point” of the slump as he unveiled bumper profits and sales.<br /><br />Britain’s biggest retailer said that group sales had jumped 8.3 per cent to £30.4bn during the 26 weeks to 29 August – meaning the giant supermarket chain was ringing over £1bn in total sales through its tills each And pre-tax profits nudged up by 1.5 per cent to £1,419m in the period.<br /><br />Leahy said that as the UK economy was improving shoppers were beginning to “treat themselves” again – with sales of its organic, “Finest” and ready meal ranges lifting. <br /><br />He predicted a “slow and steady” recovery for the UK but said Tesco did not rely on “massive growth” to boosts its earnings as it sold “everyday essentials – not luxury goods”.<br /><br />Tesco’s profits have recently been hit by the group’s introduction of lower-priced discount ranges. But Leahy argued the self-imposed price deflation had successfully stemmed the flow of cash-strapped shoppers to price conscious rivals like Asda, Lidl and Aldi.<br /><br />And Tesco said it was renaming its Personal Finance arm to Tesco Bank to reflect the group’s long term objective of creating a “full service retail bank”. It will soon start selling current accounts in store. <br /><br />It recently spent £950m buying back a 50 per cent stake in its finance arm from Royal Bank of Scotland and has tied up with insurer Fortis.<br /><br /> But the group dismissed speculation it may acquire bailed out Northern Rock saying it had “no plans to do so”.<br /><br /><strong>FAST FACTS TESCO<br /></strong>&9679; Tesco currently has 30.9 per cent of the UKgrocery market and has 2,458 stores in the UK.<br /><br />&9679; Its recent acquisition of Korea’s Homever stores will increase its footprint in Asia, but its Fresh&Easy US chain is suffering in the slump.