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Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy attacks investor short-termism

Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy has criticised short-term investor attitudes and such shareholders’ superficial understanding of companies in which they hold stakes.

Leahy said he would prefer shareholders to take inspiration from Warren Buffett, the legendary US investor famed for his depth of understanding.

In an article for The Times, Leahy wrote: “Many investors don’t want to get under the skin of the business or don’t have the patience for long-term value creation.”

Such attitudes, he said, mean that quoted firms must react to short-term concerns of the City and managers become distracted from building long-term value.

Leahy was disturbed by the ever-shorter periods for which shares are held. He said: “In the 13 years I’ve been CEO, the entire market capitalisation of Tesco has been traded more than 15 times, and that is low compared with most FTSE companies.

“While executives may invest many years or perhaps, like me and my Tesco colleagues, an entire career in one company, investors may consider that a long-term interest in a company lasts only a year or two.”

Leahy has had run-ins with investors over the last year. Some opposed his bonus package in July and have expressed concern about expansion of the Fresh & Easy chain in the US.

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