Tesco is selling its Polish business to a Danish group in its latest retreat from international markets as it focuses on the UK.
Britain’s biggest supermarket chain said it would receive a net total of £165m for the sale of its 301 stores, distribution centres, and head office in Poland, to Salling Group, which also owns the Netto Group. Tesco said the proceeds would be used for “general corporate purposes”.
Tesco had struggled to gain market share in Poland, and it had higher costs relative to competitors. Tesco also said it would continue to try to sell 19 stores not included in the deal, after agreeing deals to sell 22 stores for net proceeds of £200m in the last 18 months.
The sale of the Polish business, completed even as Tesco took a key role during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, leaves Ireland and central European operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia as the only major non-UK operations remaining.
Tesco has left Japan, South Korea, the US and Turkey in recent years. Most recently in March it sold its south-east Asian operations in Thailand and Malaysia for $10.6bn (£8.5bn) in cash.
The Tesco chief executive, Dave Lewis, said: “We have seen significant progress in our business in central Europe but continue to see market challenges in Poland. Today’s announcement allows us to focus in the region on our business in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, where we have stronger market positions with good growth prospects and achieve margins, cashflows and returns which are accretive to the group.”
Tesco’s international expansion strategy was championed by Sir Terry Leahy, who was chief executive of the supermarket for 14 years until 2010.
However, in recent years Tesco has sold a string of international business as it retrenched and tried to reinforce its position as the UK’s top grocer by revenues.
Before the sale of the Thai operations the previous significant move came in 2015, when Lewis sold off the supermarket’s South Korean business.
Lewis faced criticism last month after he was handed the biggest pay package for a Tesco boss since Leahy, at £6.42m. It came after the supermarket accepted a £585m business rates holiday.
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