Metro's Q4 Sales, Earnings Sag

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Metro's Q4 Sales, Earnings Sag

MONTREAL -- Grappling with tough competition in the province of Ontario, including what the company has deemed "very aggressive" promotional activity, Metro here posted net earnings for the fourth quarter of 2007 of $57.6 million (US $58.4 million), compared to $78.9 million (US $80.0 million) in the fourth quarter of 2007. Fully diluted net earnings per share were 49 cents vs. 68 cents.

The retailer's sales for the quarter came to $2,432.4 million (US $2.5 billion), compared with $2,673.5 million (US $2.7 billion) last year. Metro attributed the drop to "decreased sales of tobacco products and lost sales due to the disposal, in the fourth quarter of 2006, of our interest in a grocery wholesaler"; otherwise, sales would have gone up 0.7 percent, according to the company. Same-store sales grew 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

For fiscal 2007, however, Metro reported net earnings of $276.6 million (US $280.3 million), compared to $253 million (US $256 million), an increase of 9.3 percent -- the company's 17th consecutive year of net earnings growth -- and fully diluted net earnings per share of $2.37, up 8.7 percent from $2.18 last year.

The company's sales fell 2.7 percent in fiscal 2007 to $10,644.6 million (US $10.8 billion) from $10,944 million (US $11.1 billion) in fiscal 2006, for the same reasons mentioned above for the quarter's sales decline.

"We have completed our original integration and rationalization plan following the acquisition of A&P Canada and achieved over $90 million [US $91 million] in synergies," said president and c.e.o. Pierre H. Lessard in a statement. "We are already preparing phase II of our integration plan involving the rationalization of our banners and private labels, to be completed over the next three years, which will allow us to continue our growth in the Canadian grocery market."

In other Metro news, Eric Richer La Flèche will become president and c.e.o. of the company on April 1, 2008. La Flèche has served as e.v.p. and c.o.o. since January 2005. His appointment follows the decision of Lessard, president and c.e.o. since 1990, to retire.

La Flèche joined Metro in 1991 as senior director, real estate development. In 1992 he became v.p., real estate and legal affairs, a position he held until 1997, when he moved to the Super C division. He held the positions of s.v.p., Super C and president, Loeb Canada, Inc. from 2000 to 2004.

Metro operates a network of nearly 600 supermarkets under the Metro, Metro Plus, Super C, A&P, Dominion, Loeb, and Food Basics banners as well as over 250 pharmacies under the Brunet, Clini Plus, The Pharmacy, and Drug Basics banners.