UPDATE 2-Metro profit triples on stake sale, warns of competition

Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:28am EDT
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* First-quarter includes after-tax one-time gain of C$266.4 mln

* First-quarter sales fall 3 pct

* Plans to repurchase for cancellation 1 mln of its common shares

April 24 (Reuters) - Metro Inc, Canada's No. 3 grocer, more than tripled quarterly earnings after selling part of a convenience store operator, but it warned of a "challenging" competitive environment.

Metro and other Canadian supermarket chains face stern competition from Target Corp, the U.S. discount retailer, which opened its first three Canadian stores last month and plans to have more than 100 by the end of this year.

Metro and rivals such as Loblaw Cos Ltd, Canada's largest grocer, are already under pressure from the expansion of Wal-Mart Stores Inc's grocery business in Canada.

"The competitive environment will remain challenging in the coming quarters," Chief Executive Eric La Fleche said in a statement.

Loblaw, in its fourth-quarter earnings in February, had said sales growth in 2013 would be moderated by the entry of a new competitor, among other things.

Metro's net earnings rose to C$366.8 million ($357.5 million), or C$3.77 per share, in the second quarter, from C$96.1 million, or 94 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier.   Continued...