FINANCE

Second largest U.S. public pension fund files suit against Wal-Mart

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTSR), the second largest U.S. public pension fund, has filed a lawsuit against current and former Wal-Mart Stores’ executives and board members over mishandling of allegations that officials knew about a bribery campaign in Mexico and covered it up. The fund holds more than 5.3 million shares of Wal-Mart.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include Michael Duke, Wal-Mart CEO and board member Michael Duke, former Wal-Mart CEO and board member H. Lee Scott Jr., and Eduardo Castro-Wright, former CEO of Walmex (the chain’s Mexican unit) and current CEO of Wal-Mart Stores USA.

“By utilizing the derivative action, CalSTRS is seeking to remedy the damages sustained by Wal-Mart as a result of alleged gross misconduct by Wal-Mart’s executive officers and directors," CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes said in a statement.

The pension fund retained the law firms of Girard Gibbs Llp and Labaton Sucharow Llp for the lawsuit, which was filed in the Court of Chancery in Wilmington, Del.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company is reviewing the lawsuit.

"We take our responsibility to our shareholders very seriously," the spokesman said, in a Reuters report. "We are reviewing the lawsuit closely and are thoroughly investigating the issues that have been raised."

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Family Dollar enhances food offerings with McLane

BY CSA STAFF

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Family Dollar Stores has entered into a strategic partnership with McLane, a provider of grocery and food service supply chain solutions, to enable the retailer to offer customers a broader selection of merchandise, including refrigerated and frozen food, across the retailer’s more than 7,200 locations in 45 states.

“We are broadening our assortment and increasing our relevancy to our customers. McLane’s national footprint and broad distribution network make them a great partner to support our growth initiatives,” said Howard Levine, chairman and CEO.

In addition to the ability to tailor the assortment to local markets, Family Dollar, through its partnership with McLane, will establish a national supply chain for refrigerated and frozen merchandise that will provide both the scale and consistent service to propel this growing segment of the business.

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Harris Teeter sees 2Q sales boost

BY CSA STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Supermarket retailer Harris Teeter experienced a boost in second-quarter sales, as well as sales for the first half of fiscal year 2012, the company said.

Sales for the second quarter ended April 1, sales rose 6.7% to $1.12 billion, compared with the year-ago period, while the 26-week period experienced a sales boost of 7.6% to $2.24 billion, compared with the same period last year.

Harris Teeter said sales during the second quarter and first half of the year were driven by an increase in comparable-store sales and sales from new stores, partially offset by store closings. For instance, second-quarter comps increased more than 3.9% and also rose more than 4.6% during the first half of the year.

Harris Teeter also reported an increase in second-quarter net earnings, rising from $29.9 million in second quarter 2011 to $30.3 million; while net earnings for the 26 weeks ended April 1 totaled $43.9 million, dropping from $68 million in the similar period last year. The company said despite the decline in net earnings during the first half of fiscal year 2012, Harris Teeter’s operating performance and financial position "provides the flexibility to continue with its store development program for new and replacement stores along with the remodeling and expansion of existing stores." The company said plans to continue its expansion of its existing markets, including the Washington, D.C., metro market area, which incorporates northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, southern Maryland and coastal Delaware.

During the first half of fiscal 2012, the company opened three new stores and closed one store. Since the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2011, Harris Teeter opened six new stores and closed two stores, for a net addition of four stores. The company operated 206 stores as of the end of the second quarter of fiscal 2012. Looking ahead, Harris Teeter said it remains cautious in its expectations, but will continue to refine its merchandising strategies to respond to the changing shopping demands.

"We are very pleased with our results for the quarter," Harris Teeter board chairman and CEO Thomas Dickson said. "Our pricing and promotional strategies continue to be effective in driving unit sales, customer visits and increasing market share. Our operating profit margin improvement for the year was driven by the reduction in our selling, general and administrative expense margin realized through the leverage created from the additional sales and our emphasis on cost controls. We believe these positive results are a result of our continuing commitment to our customers to deliver outstanding values and excellent customer service."
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