Tesco profit up, details Fresh & Easy plans

London Tesco PLC said Tuesday that its first-half trading profit (a metric that excludes property gains) climbed to 1.69 billion pounds ($2.67 billion) in the six months ended Aug. 28, as the British grocery giant benefited from recovering economies, particularly in Asia.

CEO Terry Leahy said the company’s U.S. division, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, should become profitable in fiscal 2013. A combination of increasing sales per store and a larger network of outlets in California, Arizona and Nevada, will drive the chain to profitability, Leahy said.

Tesco also said that in November, it would "mothball" 13 stores in areas hard hit by the economic downturn -- six in Nevada, six in Arizona, and one in inland California -- by boarding them up or subletting them. It plans to reopen the locations as the local economies recover.

Tesco will open 19 new stores in the next six months. After the 19 stores open, Tesco plans to jump-start the rollout, moving to open about one store per week thereafter.

The company expects to have 400 stores in the United States by then, up from 159 as of Aug. 28.