Can property save Britain's big supermarkets?

Tesco flogged off £250m of unused sites for housing today, but it may not be able to repeat the trick.

by Rachel Savage
Credit: Tesco
Credit: Tesco

Tesco shaved another sliver off its debt pile today, flogging off £250m-worth of land once earmarked for new supermarkets. What with the ‘space race’ over and the UK suffering from a major housing shortage, Britain’s big supermarkets may well be thinking their unwitting property tycoon status is the answer to their prayers.

The 14 sites Tesco sold to property investment firm Meyer Bergman could soon be home to as many as 10,000 new houses. A relatively happy end for some of 49 planned supermarkets it axed in January, at the same time as closing 43 unprofitable stores (although many local communities bemoaned the loss of promised jobs).

Meanwhile, bitter rival Sainsbury’s has built flats on top of its expanded Fulham store, and was planning more elsewhere when MT spoke to boss Mike Coupe in June. ‘Technically, in terms of how much we own, we're the third largest property company in the UK,’ he said.

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