Tesco AGM: share price falls as Lidl announces 20 new stores

Philip Clarke faced the wrath of his shareholders at the supermarket's annual general meeting today. But in the event, most of the anger was about refrigeration systems...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 18 Jul 2014

Is it a coincidence that Lidl, the source of all Tesco's misery, chose the very moment its chief executive started to be grilled by shareholders to announce, with a certain measure of glee, that it's about to invest £220m into 20 new stores in the UK, which between them will create 2,500 jobs? We think not.

Share price sank by 0.75% as Clarke grimly listed the supermarket's many threats: recession, the internet, those pesky discounters... Aldi and Lidl are a 'resurgent force', he said. Clearly Tesco is a long way from having the same bright idea as Sainsbury's, which last week signed up to a deal with Danish discounter Netto.

Then it was shareholders' turn: one was upset about the lack of soap in the gents' toilets at Brent Cross; another was unhappy about the refrigeration systems at Potters Bar; someone wanted to know about the South African fruit. A lot of concerns about plastic bags were expressed.

Not exactly hard-hitting stuff - particularly considering the fact that an investigation by The Guardian found that Tesco is sitting on 4.6 million sq ft of land - 'an area big enough to build 15,000 homes'. Although one shareholder came up with the rather natty line that Clarke was 'paid millions to lose billions'.

Finally, an 11 year-old boy got the big question in: 'will you pay the living wage before I start work?' Er, stuttered chairman Sir Richard Broadbent - Tesco already pays 'more than other supermarkets', and it provides a 10% discount to workers.

Conspicuous by his absence was UK boss Chris Bush. When Clarke was asked where he was, he didn't have an answer. Given that Tesco is currently experiencing a senior management exodus, that's hardly confidence-inspiring.

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