Albertson's Earnings Almost Triple

Albertson's Inc. (ABS), the nation's second-largest supermarket chain, said Tuesday that its first-quarter earnings nearly tripled due to the addition of Shaw's and continued recovery in Southern California.

The Boise-based company's net income rose to $100 million, or 27 cents per share, from $36 million, or 10 cents per share, a year ago. Earnings from continuing operations totaled $107 million, or 29 cents per share, up sharply from $56 million, or 15 cents per share, in the 2004 period.

Total sales grew 16 percent to $9.99 billion from $8.61 billion last year due to the acquisition of Shaw's, progress in recovering from a labor dispute in Southern California, new store expansion and several new merchandising programs.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for profit of 26 cents per share on sales of $10.26 billion in the latest quarter.

Sales at stores open at least one year, or same-store sales, increased 1.8 percent. The company said gross margins declined slightly to 28.11 percent from 28.19 percent last year.

The company also reaffirmed its guidance for fiscal 2005 earnings from continuing operations of $1.37 to $1.47 per share. Same-store sales are expected to be positive for the full year. Analysts, on average, are predicting 2005 earnings of $1.38 per share.

Full-year capital expenditures are expected to be between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion, which includes cash capital expenditures, capital leases and operating leases.

Albertsons operates about 2,500 stores -- including Albertsons, Acme, Shaw's, Jewel-Osco (search) and Sav-on Drugs (search) -- in 37 states. It bought 202 stores under the Shaw's and Star Markets brands, mostly in New England, from British supermarket chain J. Sainsbury PLC for more than $2.1 billion last year.

Shares of Albertson's rose 37 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $21.87 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange (search).