News

Wal-Mart Gasses Up

BY CSA STAFF

Bentonville, Ark., Wal-Mart Stores is building its own gasoline stations, according to a report in The Dallas Morning Star. The chain has been partnering with other companies, primarily Arkansas-based Murphy Oil Corp., to operate gasoline pumps in more than 800 of its store parking lots under lease arrangements. But the chain is now opening stations under its own brand, with locations at Sam’s Clubs in Virginia and at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pineville, Mo.

Oil Express, a weekly newsletter, quoted sources in Monday’s edition as saying the chain plans to open up to 200 to 300 stations within a year or so and that its total could exceed 500 later this decade.

“The expansion of Wal-Mart’s gasoline marketing program is fueled by the success the firm has seen in marrying a competitive offering at the pump to lift inside-store sales,” Oil Express said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sharon Weber said that she wasn’t aware of any expansion plans.

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FINANCE

Frank’s Nursery & Crafts Files Reorganization Plan

BY CSA STAFF

Troy, Mich., Frank’s Nursery & Crafts announced the filing of its proposed plan of reorganization in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2004. Frank’s has concluded the wind-down of its store operations by completing going-out-of-business sales at its locations and has also sold or rejected substantially all of its leasehold interests.

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FINANCE

Kroger Reported to Consider Winn-Dixie Buy

BY CSA STAFF

Cincinnati, Kroger Co. may be considering making a play for a large chunk of Winn-Dixie, according to a report in the South Florida Business Journal. Kroger would serve as a supplier to a portion of the bankrupt supermarket operator’s 900-plus supermarkets at first. Eventually, it would take over Winn-Dixie’s operations in northern Florida and other states, the report said, with Winn-Dixie retaining a core group of stores in southern and central Florida.

In other news, Kroger reported wider fourth-quarter losses due to a hefty impairment charge related to the company’s Ralph’s and Food 4 Les chains. Quarterly losses totaled $675.9 million, or 93? per share, including a goodwill impairment charge of $884 million, or $1.21 per share. In the year-ago period, Kroger reported a loss of $337.4 million, or 45? per share, including charges of $663.1 million, or 89? per share. Total sales increased 5.1% to $13.7 billion from $13.03 billion last year.

Looking ahead, Kroger expects 2005 net income to exceed $1.16 per share, excluding the effect of the goodwill impairment charge. Kroger expects its earnings growth to be fueled by improved results in Southern California and lower interest expense.

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