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Nash Finch Tabs Strong '05 Sales, Earnings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Nash Finch Co. here reported strong earnings and sales gains in fiscal 2005, capped by a 20 percent gain in fourth quarter profits from higher sales and a tax break; and earnings per share that bettered analysts' expectations.

Quarterly earnings rose to $13.5 million from $11.2 million the year prior, with the reversal of $1.1 million in tax reserves boosted income by 9 cents per share. Revenue for the period totaled $1.12 billion, a 22 percent increase from $920 million a year earlier. By segment, food distribution sales in the quarter increased 46 percent to $685 million, while military and retail business edged lower.

Posting net earnings of $41 million for the full fiscal year, up from the $15 million in 2004, the distributorretailer reported $4.5 billion in total sales in 2005, vs. $4 billion in 2004. Nash Finch said the gains stem primarily from its acquisition of three wholesale distribution centers from Roundy's Supermarkets, which became effective March 31, 2005.

Sales in Nash Finch's food distribution segment increased 36 percent in 2005 to $2.7 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in 2004. The acquisition of the DCs represented approximately 89 percent of the increase in food distribution sales, while the company's food distribution profits increased to $88.3 million in 2005 from $76 million in 2004.

Strength in the food distribution segment offset sales declines in the retail category. Nash Finch said corporate retail sales were $729 million in 2005, vs. $814 million in 2004. The decline in sales came about as a result of store closures during 2004 and 2005, as well as same store sales decreases of 4 percent in the annual comparison, and 2.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

Nash Finch's store count at the end of fiscal 2005 was 78, compared to 85 at the end of fiscal 2004. A net decrease in stores during 2005 reflects both opportunistic sales of retail stores to existing food distribution customers and the closing of underperforming stores, the company said.

Nash Finch's core food distribution business serves independent retailers and military commissaries in 31 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Iceland, the Azores and Honduras. The company also owns and operates a base of retail stores, primarily supermarkets under the Econofoods, Family Thrift Center and Sun Mart banners.
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