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A&P Posts First-quarter Results

MONTVALE, N.J. - The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc., better known as A&P, Friday reported a first-quarter loss for the 16 weeks ended June 19, although the company noted that sales went up slightly.

Sales for the first quarter were $3.29 billion, compared with $3.23 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2003. Comparable store sales increased 1.0 percent vs. year-ago for company-operated stores, including 0.5 percent in the United States and 2.7 percent in Canada. The loss for the quarter was $1.11 per share this year vs. earnings of $0.31 per share last year. According to published reports, analysts were anticipating a loss of $1.05 for the retailer's latest quarter.

Results from continuing operations were a loss of $41.5 million or $1.08 per share this quarter. Compared with a loss of $20.6 million or $0.53 per share in last year's first quarter. The prior year's results include a tax benefit of $23 million, or $0.59 per share. Excluding this tax benefit, the loss from continuing operations would have been $1.12 per share last year, which, according to the company, is more comparable to this year's loss of $1.08 per share. EBITDA was $73 million for first quarter of fiscal 2004 vs. $75 million for the same period of fiscal 2003.

Christian Haub, chairman, president and c.e.o. of A&P, said in a statement, "Our first-quarter results were consistent with our recent trend, with positive comparable store sales and a third consecutive quarter of improved sequential operating earnings. I am encouraged by the improved operating and merchandising execution in all of our U.S. banners, and by A&P Canada's strong sales and continued, solid profitability during the quarter." Mr. Haub cited as "significant growth initiatives" the expansion of the company's discount Food Basics stores to Detroit and Toledo, and the acquisition of four locations in New Orleans. "We're pleased that our improved liquidity and operating results have enabled us to begin growing our business once again," he observed.

In a conference call with analysts on Friday, Haub said the Farmer Jack division in Detroit registered the highest year-on-year gains of any of the chain's operations. Overall, however, Haub said he did not anticipate any significant improvements in the chain's financial performance in the immediate future.
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