Tesco said today (14 June) that it had made a good start to the year, despite like-for-like sales in its first quarter coming in at the bottom end of analyst expectations.

The UK’s biggest supermarket said, excluding petrol, like-for-like sales for the quarter increased by 4.5% with deflation of 1.4%. Like-for-like sales including petrol grew by 5.5%. Net new stores contributed 3.5%.

The growth was down on preceeding quarters. Tesco achieved 4.9% in the fourth-quarter of 2005, and 5.5%, 6.6% and 8.8%, respectively, in the preceding three quarters.

Total group sales for the thirteen weeks ending 27 May 2006 increased by 10.4%.

International sales were up 15.1% at constant exchange rates and by 15.3% at actual rates.

The company addded that it was on track to deliver its largest ever programme of new store openings this year, which will provide more than 6m square feet of new selling space in International. A further 1m square feet will be added through the acquisition of the 11 Carrefour stores in the Czech Republic.

Total UK sales were up 9%, which the company said was “solid growth in competitive markets”.

Chief Executive, Terry Leahy said: “We’ve made a good start to the year across the group. International is showing strong growth and pushing on well with new store development and the UK has made solid progress on top of two years of exceptional performance.”