Tesco has said that "significant panic-buying" in recent weeks cleared its supply chain of certain items as sales jumped by 30%.

The supermarket giant said supply has now stabilised across the group as it reported its latest annual figures.

Tesco committed to paying shareholders a final dividend of 6.15p per share, totalling £635 million, after posting a surge in profits.

The payout comes after the retailer secured around £585 million worth of business rates relief from the Government for the current financial year, which was announced by the Chancellor as part of his business support package.

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The retailer said surging demand resulted in the sale of six million tins of baked beans, 3.3 million tins of tomatoes and 3.6 million packs of toilet roll each week as stockpiling increased.

It said 10% of shoppers bought 30% of products while it also reported stockpiling was most prevalent in the South East.

Tesco said operating costs are expected to be between £650 million and £925 million higher as a result of the pandemic, with vast amounts spent on recruitment and expanding its delivery business.

The company has recruited 45,000 more staff members in the past two weeks in a bid to cope with soaring demand.

Numerous workers have been appointed as drivers and pickers to help expand its delivery business.

Dave Lewis, chief executive of Tesco, stressed that ensuring deliveries can be made to the most vulnerable customers is a "live issue", with the Government providing the supermarket with an initial list of 110,000 people to reach out to.

The retailer said it has increased its number of home delivery slots by around 20% to 805,000 a week, with plans to increase this further.

Mr Lewis said: "On the shop-floor I've seen a greater amount of change in the last two weeks than for probably about the last 10 years."

Tesco said no member of staff has been furloughed but 50,000 staff are currently absent on full pay.

Mr Lewis added: "Covid-19 has shown how critical the food supply chain is to the UK and I'm very proud of the way Tesco, as indeed the whole UK food industry, has stepped forward.

"Initial panic-buying has subsided and service levels are returning to normal.

"There are significant extra costs in feeding the nation at the moment but these are partially offset by the UK business rates relief.

"Tesco is a business that rises to a challenge and this will be no different."

Around 2,800 gyms and other fitness sites could close by the middle of June unless the Government steps in with extra help, the industry's trade body has warned.

Gyms and leisure centres are struggling to pay their rents and overhead fees, and are not collecting any money after having been forced to close by the Government in a bid to halt the spread of coronavirus.

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It means that about 100,000 jobs could be lost within the next 11 weeks, Ukactive said.

"Our nation's gyms and leisure centres form the fabric of our society, as well as contributing £7.7bn to the economy annually and employing one of the most passionate and dedicated workforces in the world," said Ukactive chief executive Huw Edwards.

He added: "If nothing is done and we say goodbye to our gyms and leisure centres it will have a devastating impact on our society when we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, at the precise time when these facilities will be needed desperately by people."

The Government has promised to pay 80% of the salaries of workers who have been furloughed during the crisis, and pledged to back loans to help keep companies afloat.

However, Ukactive said that the Government must ensure that support reaches companies faster, and provide access to the jobs retention scheme in April.

It also asked for relief from utilities and help to ensure landlords feel less pressure from banks so they can support tenants better.

Otherwise cities and towns across the UK could lose out on a sector which provides £3.3 billion in social value every year through increasing health and wellbeing, according to Ukactive's own figures.

"If our leisure facilities are lost, it will be incredibly difficult to rebuild them and any recovery will be extremely slow and painful," Mr Edwards said.

He added: "Ukactive requires the Government to make the loans process faster and more accessible, to provide clear guidance to landlords on what they can do to support organisations in the sector, and to provide support on fixed business costs such and rates and utilities."

Three of the UK's biggest insurance groups have said they will scrap planned dividends this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Aviva, Direct Line and RSA Group have all said they will not pay out to shareholders, following advice from regulators calling for insurers to preserve their cash due to the uncertainty.

READ MORE: Stuart Patrick: 'Next on our list of concerns are the gaps that remain in the schemes'

On Friday, rival Legal & General said it would continue paying its dividend, despite the request not to.

Dividend payments have been a hot topic for companies, with arguments made that shareholders such as pension funds, need the cash and individual savers rely on dividend income.

Aviva said: "The board has taken this decision in the wake of the unprecedented challenges Covid-19 presents for businesses, households and customers, and the adverse and highly uncertain impact on the global economy.

"Regulatory authorities... have responded by publicly urging restraint on dividend payments by insurers to shareholders.
"In light of the significant uncertainties presented by Covid-19, the board agrees with our regulators that it is prudent to suspend dividend payments at this time."

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority said last Thursday that insurers and reinsurers should "temporarily suspend all discretionary dividend distributions and share buybacks aimed at remunerating shareholders".

It also put a temporary ban on insurance staff bonuses to ensure that insurers maintained their capital strength during the virus crisis.

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