UPDATE 1-Sobeys-owner Empire posts better-than-expected profit

Wed Sep 10, 2014 6:10pm EDT
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Sept 10 (Reuters) - Empire Co Ltd, the operator of Canadian grocery chain Sobeys Inc, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by its recently acquired Safeway Canada.

Empire last year bought the Canadian arm of Safeway Inc for $5.7 billion to double its reach in the country's western provinces and compete with U.S. retail giants Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp.

After completing the acquisition in November, Empire owns more than 1,800 stores under banners such as IGA, Lawton's Drug Stores, Foodland, FreshCo and Thrifty Foods.

Total sales jumped 35.4 percent to C$6.22 billion in the first quarter ended Aug. 2.

Most of the increase came from the Safeway Canada operation in the company's food retail business, Empire said.

Sobeys' same-store sales increased 1.3 percent.

Net earnings from continuing operations rose to C$123.1 million, or C$1.33 per share, from C$82.6 million, or C$1.21 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Empire earned C$1.43 per share from continuing operations.

Analysts on an average had expected earnings of C$1.35 per share and sales of C$6.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Sneha Banerjee and Anannya Pramanick in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)