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Safeway (SWY) Q4 Tops Street, Identical-Store Sales Rise; Shares Gain

 February 21, 2013 09:25 AM

(By Balachander) Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue as gift, prepaid card sales and identical-store sales rose, and shares of the food and drug retailer jumped nearly 5 percent in premarket trading on Thursday.

Adjusted earnings per share (EPS) from continuing operations for the fourth quarter were 94 cents, versus Wall Street projections of 76 cents.

Earnings from continuing operations increased 17.6 percent $255 million.

Sales and other revenue grew 1.2 percent to $13.8 billion, while market expectations were for an increase of 0.70 percent. Identical-store sales, excluding fuel, rose 0.8 percent. Unit volume rose 0.3 percent in the U.S.

[Related -United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) Q1 Earnings Preview: Can UNFI Post Another Beat?]

"While the calendar shift of New Year's Eve and the shift to generic drugs had a significant drag on reported ID sales, our just for U and fuel loyalty programs are driving market share gains and profits," commented CEO Steve Burd.

Gross margin shrank 21 basis points to 26.50 percent. Excluding the 10 basis-point impact from fuel sales, gross margin contracted 11 basis points due primarily to investments in price, the company said.

For the full year, Safeway earned $566.2 million from continuing operations on sales of $44.2 billion.

SWY shares, which have been trading in the 52-week range of $14.73 to $22.94, closed at $20.13 on Wednesday.

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