Tesco could break even in the US as early as this year, according to chief executive Philip Clarke.

Clarke said the loss-making Fresh & Easy chain could break even periodically “in months of 2012 and 2013”, the Financial Times reports.

Former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy set a target for the business to break even in February 2013.

Tesco’s US arm is estimated to have lost £700m and cost £1bn of capital since it was set up in 2007. In January, the retailer decided to mothball 12 Fresh & Easy stores due to weak local economies.

Clarke said: “I can see it’s going to get through to break-even.

“What I am yearning for is a day I can say not just, ‘Hey do you know what, it’s got to break even. But ‘Look here at the prospect of strong returns’.”

He added: “The only reason for having any business is that it generates a return… on investment that justifies you being there. So, first job: break even. Second job: returns.”

In November, chief marketing officer Simon Uwins, part of the original team of executives who set up the US business five years ago, left the US business to “pursue other interests”.

At home, Clarke is working to turnaround Tesco’s fortunes after it issued its first profit warning in 20 years. He is reportedly planning to fit a three-year overhaul of the business in a year.

Next week, Tesco.com will relaunch next week with its new marketplace concept where shoppers would be able to sell on the site with Tesco taking a cut.

Shoppers content will be driven by recommendations and data feeds about topics such as sales and top-rated products.

The integration of Clubcard data will mean that customers will see content reflecting their purchases, and those of consumers with similar profiles.

Clarke will update further on plans to refresh UK stores in April. Yesterday he revealed the retailer is to create 20,000 new jobs over the next two years.