City Fund Manager Calls For Tesco Shake-Up
One of the City's top fund managers has urged Tesco to shake up its top management or face an accelerated period of "managed decline", increasing the pressure on Philip Clarke, its chief executive.
Speaking to Sky News, Robert Talbut, chief investment officer of Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), said that this week's disappointing trading update from Britain's biggest retailer meant that changes in its leadership team were necessary.
Tesco announced on Wednesday that like-for-like sales in the first quarter of its financial year had fallen 3.7%, a figure that Mr Clarke described as the worst he could remember during nearly 40 years with the company.
"My view is that the business needs a management team who will implement more bold actions in order to restart growth. At present we appear to have managed decline," Mr Talbut said.
"RLAM is not currently a major Tesco shareholder, partly because of its concerns about the company's strategy and performance, and potentially if the management team was to implement bolder actions we may consider increasing our shareholding."
While several institutional investors have been quoted anonymously calling for Mr Clarke to step down, Mr Talbut is among the first to imply that publicly.
As chairman of the investment affairs committee at the Association of British Insurers, Mr Talbut's views carry significant weight in the City.
Mr Clarke said on Wednesday that the most recent quarter had been one of significant progress but said turning around its performance would not take place in the short term.
"Our accelerated plans are making a real difference for customers and we are more competitive than we have been for many years. Since February, we have cut prices on the products that matter most, cut home delivery charges and made Grocery Click & Collect free.
"As expected, the acceleration of our plans is impacting our near-term sales performance.
"The first quarter has also seen a continuation of the challenging consumer trends in the UK, reflecting still subdued levels of spending in addition to the more structural changes taking place across the retail industry. We are determined to lead in this period of change, building long-term customer loyalty and positioning the business to win in the multichannel era."
Sir Richard Broadbent, Tesco's chairman, is also facing criticism for his stewardship of the board following the recent resignation of Laurie McIlwee, the company's finance director.
Sources said that Tesco directors were due to gather in Thailand next week for a board meeting, with the retailer's annual meeting scheduled for later this month.
Tesco could not be reached for comment.