Embattled U.K. supermarket chain Tesco reported that sales fell over the Christmas period and announced that it would not be paying a final dividend to shareholders this year.
Like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, fell 2.9 percent in the 19 weeks to January 3, and dipped 0.3 percent for the six-week Christmas period, it said in a trading statement on Thursday. Tesco also announced that it would not be paying a final dividend for the 2014/2015 period, in a move likely to disappoint its shareholders.
The sales figures mark an improvement from a 5.4-percent fall in its second quarter, and Tesco stressed that its online shopping, fresh food and general merchandise sectors had performed well in its home market during the holiday period.
Pradeep Pratti, an analyst at Citi, had predicted sales down around 3.5 percent over the Christmas period, compared with the previous year.
"A broad-based improvement has built gradually through the third quarter, leading to a strong Christmas trading performance," CEO Dave Lewis said in Thursday's statement.
"We have some very difficult changes to make. I am very conscious that the consequences of these changes are significant for all stakeholders in our business but we are facing the reality of the situation. "
The company also announced a new CEO for its U.K. and Ireland business, a restructuring of store management and the closure of 43 "unprofitable" stores. It hopes to deliver savings of around £250 million ($373 million) for the year, it said.
Shares of Tesco had risen around 13 percent by early afternoon trade on Thursday.