Tesco has long been the risk averse investor's friend, delivering dividend growth and apparent consistency, even during the recession.
However, the U.K. supermarket behemoth's formerly steady rise in revenue and expansion is looking less certain. Dave Lewis, who started as the company's new chief executive on Monday, will have a lot in his in-tray – as does Alan Stewart, the new chief financial officer, who joins in December.
Market watchers saw the retailer's profit warning and dividend cut on Friday as an attempt by the board to get the bad news out of the way before Stewart's regime starts.
Meanwhile, it emerged Monday that one of the company's well-known investors, U.S. fund manager Harris Associates, cut its stake in Tesco from 3 percent to around 1.4 percent. David Herro, chief executive of Harris, cited "unclear management direction" and "incoherent strategy" in an email to the Financial Times about his decision.
There has been no shortage of doom in the analyst community around the once fail-safe stock, which famously doubled its market share from 16 percent to 32 percent of the U.K. market within 13 years.
Ahead of a big strategy reveal by Lewis, expected in early 2015, many are worried there are further downgrades to come.
On one hand, a new broom approach is welcomed by the investment community, after the disappointing performance under Tesco lifer Philip Clarke. On the other, Lewis in particular is not very well-known to the market or analysts.
"Tesco has been going wrong for six years or more in our view, and the new CEO will need to make big and tough decisions quickly," David Mccarthy, head of European consumer retail research at HSBC, warned.
The retailer needs to refocus on being just that - a grocer – rather than the myriad other ventures – such as coffee shops, banking, TV service Blinkbox and others - which have distracted from the core business, HSBC argued.
One of the problems appears to be that Tesco has been trapped in the tactic from its glory era: huge out-of-town supermarkets. This seems out of date when there are more, smaller offerings around the corner from consumers, and when it is much easier to shop online for those hard-to-find items.
"Consumers need to know what Tesco stands for; they need a positive reason to choose the Tesco store over its local competitors," Bruno Monteyne, senior analyst at Bernstein (and a former Tesco employee), argued in a research note.
- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle