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    Albertsons' Q4 Sales, Comps, Profits Drop

    BOISE, Idaho-- Albertsons Inc. Q4 sales, comps, and profits took a dive -- though its stock price was up a quarter of a percent, ending the day at $25.50.

    BOISE, Idaho-- Albertsons Inc. Q4 sales, comps, and profits took a dive -- though its stock price was up a quarter of a percent, ending the day at $25.50.

    Albertsons' total sales were $10.2 billion for the quarter ended February 2, versus $11.1 billion last year. Total comparable store sales decreased 0.3 percent, and identical store sales decreased 0.4 percent for the quarter.

    Net income for the quarter fell to $162 million, or 43 cents per share, from $194 million, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier. Earnings in the latest quarter included 9 cents per share in charges, compared with 2 cents per share in the year-ago period.

    Total sales for the year reached $40.4 billion, versus $39.8 billion last year. Comparable store sales increased 0.4 percent and identical store sales increased 0.3 percent, consistent with Albertsons' guidance for the year.

    After adjustment for unusual items, fiscal 2005 earnings from continuing operations were $513 million or $1.38 per share, which was within the company's previously issued guidance range. Albertsons' c.f.o. Felicia Thornton said fiscal 2005 earnings were reduced by the Gulf Coast hurricanes, changes to the way the company accounts for early payment discounts when buying merchandise, and costs associated with the company's solicitation of bidders to purchase the chain.

    The company's latest quarter and year contained one week less than the year earlier.

    During the fourth quarter, 13 new stores were opened, 18 were closed, and 37 remodels were completed. For the full year, 56 new stores were opened, 88 were closed, and 138 remodels were completed. A total of 2,471 stores were open at the end of the year.

    Andy Serwer, Wall Street columnist for CNNMoney.com, said Albertsons' performance showed the company "continues to suck wind," and even warned investors against buying stock in Albertsons' acquirer, Supervalu, for the time being. "I think Albertsons is going to be tough to fix and will be a drag on Supervalu," Serwer said.

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