British supermarket giant Tesco, announced on Wednesday that first-half net profits rose by 16 percent as higher sales abroad offset weakness in its home market. Profit after tax grew to £1.377 billion ($2.128 billion, 1.599 billion euros) in the six months to August 27 from £1.184 billion in the first half of Tesco's 2010/11 financial year. "I am pleased that excellent growth in Europe and Asia, as well as an encouraging performance in the United States, have supported further progress in the first half, despite the challenges of subdued demand in the UK, particularly in non-food categories," chief executive Philip Clarke said. Tesco, which is Britain's biggest retailer and the world's third-largest retail group after US-based Wal-Mart and France's Carrefour, gave a cautious outlook. "The economic background across our markets is not uniform, with generally challenging conditions in developed countries, particularly the UK and Ireland and, in contrast, continued strong growth in emerging economies," it said. "However, all our markets remain highly competitive and levels of consumer confidence are generally low." The group announced in August that it was pulling out of Japan after eight years and putting its 129 small supermarkets on sale to focus on other operations in Asia.