Supervalu 4Q Profits Up 30%

Minneapolis Supervalu said fourth-quarter profits jumped 30% as it paid down debt and cut administrative expenses. Earnings rose to $156 million from $120 million in the year-ago quarter.

Fourth-quarter retail net sales were $8.1 billion compared to $8.2 billion last year, primarily reflecting the impact of store closures in the acquired operations combined with flat identical store sales. Retail square footage decreased 2.5% from the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007 with the previously announced closure of underperforming stores which more than offset new store square footage.

Supervalu has been paying down debt since buying most of Albertson's stores in 2006. Chairman and CEO Jeff Noddle said the company beat its own goal of paying off $400 million by June. Its bill for interest dropped to $157 million for the quarter, compared with $173 million a year ago. Noddle said Supervalu would try to pay off another $400 million in the upcoming year.

For the full year, Supervalu earned $593 million, up from $452 million during the prior year. Revenue rose to $44.05 billion, from $37.41 billion a year ago.

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