TROUBLED supermarket giant Tesco has pulled out of a shop opening just weeks before the launch date.
Work had been nearing completion of a unit on Walthew Lane, Platt Bridge.
But no sooner had the signs gone up for the new Tesco Express than they came down again as the project was mothballed.
No official explanation has been given but the U-turn coincided with more bad news about the retail giant which has seen profits slump and is under investigation for exaggerating its financial forecasts by £263m.
There was conflicting information circulating today about what happens next to the unit on the Walthew parade: one source saying that there were hopes to still have a Tesco presence, albeit a smaller one, there; another that the company was looking to find another operator for the site.
Tesco says the newly recruited and trained staff - thought to be up to 20 - have been redeployed to other stores. A source said Tesco was hoping to remain in Platt Bridge, although operating a much smaller one-stop site.
But company spokesman Mark Thomas said: “We have taken the difficult decision not to open our proposed Express store in Platt Bridge.
“We are actively seeking another operator for the shop.
“All of our colleagues recruited for this store have been found roles in our stores elsewhere.”
Meanwhile the Serious Fraud Office has launched a formal criminal investigation into Tesco’s accounting practices which led to the profit overstatement.
Just weeks after the arrival of new chief executive Dave Lewis, who was brought in to turn around falling sales and profits, accountants from Deloitte established that the estimate of first-half profits in August had been artificially inflated by more than a quarter of a billion pounds.
The inquiry triggered the suspension of eight senior executives and no-one as yet has been reinstated.
The criminal investigation comes at a difficult time for Tesco as it struggles to cope with a rapidly changing grocery market, finding itself squeezed in the middle by both high end and discount chains plus the rising influence of online retailing.
Shares in the group have halved in the past year as the retailer continues to lose market share while German discounters Aldi and Lidl continue to grow rapidly.