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Canadian Loblaw Says Q4 Profits Improved More than 14 Percent

TORONTO -- Canadian grocery giant Loblaw Cos. here said yesterday that its fourth-quarter profit increased 14.6 percent despite a slight drop in sales. The company attributed the gain to an extra week in the 2003 period.

Loblaw earned $337 million, or $1.22 per diluted share, in the period, up from $294 million, or $1.06 per diluted share in 2003. Full-year profit rose to $968 million, or $3.51 per diluted share, up from $845 million, or $3.05 per share, in 2003.

Loblaw results were affected by an extra week added to the fourth quarter of the company's 2003 fiscal year, necessitated by its 52-week reporting cycle. The latest year's fourth quarter was just 12 weeks long.

Sales for the quarter dropped to $6.33 billion from $6.37 billion a year earlier. On a comparable 12-week basis, fourth-quarter sales grew 6.8 percent, Loblaw said.

Annual sales grew 3.9 percent to $26.2 billion, up from $25.2 billion in 2003, despite the extra year. On a comparable 52-week basis, sales were up 5.9 percent, the company said.
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