LONDON: Right now the global outlook for retailers is as Stygian as an investment banker's conscience. Not so, however, for UK market leader Tesco, which on its home patch accounts for one pound sterling in every eight spent by the nation's shoppers.

Which means that the canny supermarketeer must keep one beady eye fixed on the nation's antitrust authorities and the other on opportunities elsewhere on the globe.

US titan Wal-Mart, of course, rules the global retail roost with annual sales of $375 billion (€289.87bn; £253.79bn) for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2008. An 8.6% year-on-year increase.

Current world numero deux is Carrefour of France with annual revenues of $112.6bn – less than one third of Wal-Mart's tally – while Tesco accounts for one-fourth with $94.7bn.

But the latter is coming up fast on the rails behind the French colossus and, according to the UK's Institute of Grocery Distribution, is set to overtake Carrefour by 2012, thanks to expansion overseas in markets such as China, the US and India.

It'll be a neck-to-neck finish though, with Tesco predicted to notch $157.1bn versus Carrefour's $157bn.

But informed observers question whether the IGD's prediction is a mere publicity gimmick? They point to global financial turbulence, consumers' reluctance to unzip their wallets and the influences of recession on employment and investment.

In such a volatile climate, they argue, any three year forecast based on such fragile data is even less reliable than a promise from the aforesaid investment banker.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff