Strong Sales, New Stores Lift Loblaw

TORONTO - Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Canada's largest grocery chain, reported on Wednesday that second-quarter earnings rose 32 percent thanks to strong supermarket sales and the opening of 16 new stores.

Loblaw, whose shares have risen almost 20 percent this year on takeover speculation and its strong performance, according to a Reuters report, said it earned C$149 million ($95 million), or 54 Canadian cents a share, up 32 percent from net earnings of C$115 million, or 41 Canadian cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Revenues rose 6.5 percent to C$5.3 billion from C$5.0 billion, with same-store sales increasing 4.1 percent.

"Good sales growth continued to be experienced in all banners across the country while absorbing the effects of a two-week strike in our Saskatchewan superstore business, unseasonable weather in Ontario and Quebec as well as our intensified lower pricing activity in Quebec," the company said in a statement.

Loblaw aggressively entered Quebec with the C$1.78 billion purchase of the Provigo chain in 1999. It has spent about C$1 billion to refurbish stores and has slashed prices to gain a strong foothold there.
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