Tesco Defends Executive’s Share Sale Before Profit-Outlook Cut

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Tesco Plc, the U.K.’s largest supermarket chain, said Chief Operating Officer Bob Robbins was not in possession of price-sensitive information when he sold 50,000 shares before the company lowered its profit outlook.

Tesco, based in Cheshunt, England, reported on Jan. 12 Christmas sales that missed analyst estimates and reined back profit expectations after competitors’ promotions proved more popular than its Big Price Drop campaign. The company announced on Jan. 5 that Robbins sold the shares for 404.51 pence each, valuing the sale at about 202,000 pounds ($309,000).

“Robbins sold less than 5 percent of his substantial shareholding in Tesco for necessary family expenditure,” the company said in an e-mailed statement today. “The sale, which was not made within a close period, was approved in the usual way. We are confident that Bob was not in possession of any price-sensitive information at the time that the sale was approved.”

Tesco shares closed at 316.8 pence in London yesterday after the biggest weekly drop since October 2008.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Larkin in London at nlarkin1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net