Tesco has reported a steady sales growth in the UK in its third quarter, but lower than some analysts had expected.

The grocer reported like-for-like sales for the 13 weeks ending November 28, excluding petrol and VAT-adjusted, up 2.8%, driven by volume growth. Net new stores contributed 2.9%, bringing total growth excluding petrol to 5.7%, or 4.7% including VAT. Including petrol, which the grocer said has seen substantial deflation, total UK sales including VAT grew by 4.2%.

Jonathan Pritchard, analyst at Oriel Securities said: “The UK like-for-like is not especially impressive and there may be a small domestic downgrade but overseas will pick up the slack. The Clubcard 2 promotion has had some effect but has only served to mitigate falling inflation and like-for-like remains just below 3% (which was where the whisper range had gathered) at 2.8%.”

Tesco said the UK has an improving positive like-for-like sales trend in non-food, particularly strong in toys, electrical and entertainment. It said Tesco Direct has also delivered another strong performance.

Chief executive Sir Terry Leahy said: “We’ve continued to make good progress this quarter with contributions to growth from across the business. We are seeing improving customer confidence and encouraging trends in both the UK and our international businesses, although recessionary conditions still exist in a number of markets. 

“As ever, with Christmas approaching, we’re doing even more for customers with low prices, great promotions, including on our Finest range, and of course double Clubcard points. Our investment in growth - in new space and from the two acquisitions last year - is providing us with good momentum and a strong platform for the future.”

Tesco’s group sales increased by 8.8%, excluding petrol. Growth was 7.7% including petrol.

International sales increased by 12% at actual exchange rates, excluding petrol (5.4% at constant rates). Growth in Asia was up 18.9% or 10.5% at constant exchange rates.

In Europe, sales grew by 5.7% or 0.6% at constant exchange rates.

International like-for-like sales were up 3.7%.

In the US, sales were up 37.4%, and the grocer said it reported stronger like-for-like sales following the range enhancement and subsequent marketing launch of Fresh & Easy in September.