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Loblaw Sees Quarterly Profit Rise from Store Openings, Cost Cuts

TORONTO - Canada's largest grocery chain, Loblaw Cos. Ltd., said on Wednesday fourth-quarter sales and earnings rose, helped by new store openings and better profit margins that came from cost cuts, Reuters reports.

Loblaw earned C$217 million ($136 million), or 78 Canadian cents a share, in the quarter ended Dec. 29, compared with C$188 million, or 67 Canadian cents a share in the year-ago period.

Revenue at Loblaw, controlled by George Weston Ltd., the country's largest food processor and distributor, was C$5.2 billion, up 6 percent from C$4.9 billion a year ago. Same-store sales rose 4 percent.

Chairman Galen Weston said he expects sales and earnings to "grow solidly" in 2002.

Loblaw shares have risen about 7 percent since Feb. 12 on market speculation that Weston was planning to sell its controlling stake in the grocer to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Loblaw and Weston have refused to comment on the speculation, but Weston has said it wants to further lower its holding. Last year, for the first time in more than a decade, Weston reduced its stake to 61 percent from 63 percent.
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