Albertsons Q3 Profits Hurt by Hurricanes

Albertsons Inc. (ABS), the huge food and drug retailer, reported its profit surged 19.5 percent in the third quarter despite the adverse impact on its operations from four hurricanes that hit Florida and other states this past summer.

The company whose stores include Albertsons (search), Jewell (search) and Osco Drugs (search) said Thursday it earned $110 million, or 29 cents a share in the August-October period compared with $92 million, 25 cents a share, a year ago.

Sales rose to nearly $10 billion from $8.7 billion in sales a year earlier.

Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had anticipated 33 cents a share in earnings.

But Albertsons chairman Larry Johnston said the Florida hurricanes cost the company three cents a share, and said without that, its earnings would have been within the guidance range of 31 cents to 35 cents a share for the quarter.

Johnston said its profit for the year would be at the lower end of its previous earnings projection of between $1.40 and $1.50 a share. Analysts were looking for earnings of $1.45 a share.

Aggressive marketing, he said, put third quarter sales in Southern California ahead of those a year ago, the last full quarter before the company was hit by a costly 4 1/2 month labor dispute in that area.

The company will also move merchandising teams now based in Scottsdale, Ariz., to Boise sometime during the first quarter of 2005.

For the first nine months of the year, Albertsons earned $249 million, or 67 cents a share, down from $426 million, or $1.16 a share, a year ago. Sales rose to $28.8 billion from $26.5 billion.