Loblaw Issues Earnings Warning Ahead of Q4 Results

BRAMPTON, Ont. -- Loblaw Cos., Ltd. here yesterday issued an warning that its fourth-quarter results, due Feb. 8, would be lower than the year-ago period as the company continues to invest heavily in revamping its organization in the face of increasing competition from such quarters as Wal-Mart.

Canada's top supermarket said it earned from 92 cents to 97 cents per share before special items, and from 71 cents to 76 cents per share, including charges connected to the restructuring, supply chain disruptions, and stock-based compensation.

Loblaw reported $337 million (US $289 million), or $1.22 per share, in the fourth quarter of 2004, vs. $294 million (US $253 million), or $1.06 per share, in 2003's fourth quarter, and a profit of $968 million (US $83 million), or $3.51 a share, up from $3.05 per share in the year-ago period. The grocer estimates its 2005 earnings will be $3.32 to $3.37 per share before charges, and $2.70 to $2.75 per share, including charges, with fourth-quarter sales to rise between 4 percent and 6 percent to about $6.6 billion (US $5.7 billion), compared with $6.3 billion last year (US $5.4 billion). Fiscal 2005 sales are anticipated to go up about 6 percent to $27.8 billion, from $26.2 billion in fiscal 2004.

The retailer acknowledged in a statement that the overhaul of its company "would cause short-term fluctuations in its performance, including a tough fourth quarter from an earnings standpoint, and a very soft fourth quarter from a top-line standpoint."

Shares of Loblaw fell 5 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange following the earnings warning.
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