Tesco has agreed to pay $12 million to settle one of two U.S. shareholder class action lawsuits alleging the U.K. grocery giant inflated its stock price by overstating profits.
The settlement agreement is with holders of Tesco’s American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) equivalent to about 2% of its shares. A suit by the remaining ADR holders, who represent less than 0.2% of the stock, is still pending in Ohio.
Both cases are part of the fallout from Tesco’s admission in September 2014 that it had overstated its first-half profit by 250 million pounds ($377 million) as a result of incorrectly booking payments from suppliers. A month later, it revised the overstatement up to 263 million pounds ($397 million).
The settlement is “welcome news for Dave Lewis, chief executive of Tesco, who is battling to turn round Britain’s biggest retailer,” the Financial Times commented.
According to the consumer research group Kantar Worldpanel, Tesco’s sales fell 3.8% in the four weeks to Nov. 8, the second worst performance among the U.K.’s so-called big four supermarket groups. “This is despite the introduction of a new price matching scheme for branded products,” the FT noted.
The shareholder group that settled with Tesco includes those who acquired its ADRs and “F-shares” between April 18 2012 and Sept. 22 2014. Kim Miller, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the settlement an “outstanding recovery” given the risks of continued litigation.
Clive Black of brokers Shore Capital told the FT that the deal was “another notch of good news [for Tesco], allowing senior management to focus that little bit more on the more important day job of turning this once great business around.”
A U.S. law firm has funded an entity to allow institutional shareholders in the U.K. to bring claims, arguing that Tesco’s overstatement of its profits caused a “permanent destruction of value to shareholders.” Tesco said no litigation had been brought in the U.K. so far.