Record Christmas sales at Tesco helped the supermarket post a like-for-like sales increase of 2.3% in the UK and Ireland in the third quarter. Tesco saw its highest rate of market share growth in the Republic of Ireland for five years, with like-for-like sales up 3.5%. In the UK, like-for-like sales growth of 1.9% was driven by a 3.4% rise in food offset by the ongoing drag from general merchandise and lost tobacco sales due to the Palmer & Harvey integration. Tesco delivered its biggest ever week of sales in the key Christmas week itself. Fresh food outperformance in this week was nearly 4%. Like-for-like sales in Central Europe increased by 0.6% whereas Asia like-for-like sales were down 11.1% because of Tesco's decision to withdraw from bulk selling activities in Thailand. Tesco Bank sales grew by 4.8%. Dave Lewis, chief executive, said: "We have continued to outperform the market throughout this period, particularly in fresh food, thanks to our most competitive offer for many years. Our trading momentum accelerated across the third quarter and into December, with the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day delivering record sales and volumes in the UK. "Incorporating Palmer & Harvey volumes and complexity during this peak period was challenging, resulting in lost tobacco sales across December and putting further strain into our distribution network, particularly post-Christmas. Whilst I am pleased to say these challenges have now been resolved, they took the shine off an otherwise outstanding performance for the period as a whole." Tesco said it is firmly on track to deliver the medium-term ambitions outlined in October 2016.
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