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Tesco Ireland in talks over pension plan

Tesco's Irish arm is in talks with staff and unions about "future-proofing" a defined- benefit pension scheme that serves 3,000 existing and 1,300 former staff as the embattled retailer axes a similar scheme in the UK.

The talks come as the retailer is cutting its cost base across the group as it tries to regain market share after a disastrous 2014.

A spokesperson said it's too early to predict the outcome of the pension talks in Ireland.

In an update to investors yesterday, Tesco top brass refused to be drawn on their plans for Ireland as the company's operations here again suffered the ignominy of being the worst performing market for the chain in Europe, outside the UK.

Tesco's like-for-like sales, excluding VAT and fuel, fell 5.5pc in Ireland in the crunch Christmas trading period, which ran for six weeks to January 3.

In the 19 weeks to January 3, like-for-like sales in Ireland fell 6pc. The performance in Ireland held back what was a wider recovery in Tesco's European business.

Tesco is to close its UK headquarters as well as loss-making UK stores, and plans to cut costs by £250m in a drive to boost the flagging chain.

It won't pay a final dividend and capital expenditure will be held at £1bn (€1.28bn) this year, with just 10-15pc of that earmarked for stores in Europe, including Ireland.

The spokesperson also outlined initiatives Tesco has been taking to improve customer experience and said the retailer had seen an improvement in its UK business. Like-for-like sales fell 2.9pc in the UK in the 19 weeks to January 3.

Tesco shares jumped 15pc as investors gambled that its new CEO Dave Lewis is putting the business back on track.