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    Publix to Open 57 New Locations This Year

    LAKELAND, Fla. - Publix Super Markets, based here, has plans to open about 57 new stores in 2004 and is intending to spend roughly $500 million on remodeling, expansion, and information technology costs, according to the Lakeland, Fla. Ledger.

    LAKELAND, Fla. - Publix Super Markets, based here, has plans to open about 57 new stores in 2004 and is intending to spend roughly $500 million on remodeling, expansion, and information technology costs, according to the Lakeland, Fla. Ledger.

    Last year Publix opened 78 supermarkets, closed 18 stores, and expanded or remodeled another 80 stores. In the late 1990s Publix grew by an average of 37 stores per year. Now a major expansion plan is in under way.

    The additions in 2003 and plans for this year show that the company is sticking to its 2001 expansion plan, which called for 340 new stores in the next five years. At that time the plan was announced, Publix had 648 supermarkets in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.

    According to a SEC report, Publix operated 801 supermarkets by the end of 2003, compared with 741 at the beginning of that year. Another three have opened already in 2004. The new stores resulted in an increase in square footage of 3.2 million, or 9.4 percent, since 2002. By the close of 2003 Publix operated 600 supermarkets in Florida, 148 in Georgia, 34 in South Carolina, 12 in Alabama, and seven in Tennessee. There were 13 stores under construction in Florida, nine in Georgia, seven in Alabama, and one in South Carolina. The company additionally ran four convenience stores.

    Publix officials also have expressed interest in looking at Bruno's and Bi-Lo markets, which are for sale. Royal Ahold announced in February it intends to find a buyer for Bruno's and sister chain Bi-Lo to strengthen its financial position by reducing debt. Based in Birmingham, Bruno's was acquired by Ahold in 2001. The company operates 178 stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. There are no Bruno's stores in Polk County. Bi-Lo, headquartered in Mauldin, S.C., was acquired by Ahold in 1977. It operates 292 stores in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

    Capital expenditures for Publix in 2003 were $563.6 million. It was expected that roughly $600 million would be spent in 2003. In 2002 Publix had $636 million in capital expenditures. By contrast, its capital expenditures were about $358 million in 1998.

    However, the projected $500 million in capital expenditures for this year is a decrease. "This capital program is subject to continuing change and review," the annual report says. "In the normal course of operations, the company replaces supermarkets and closes supermarkets that are not meeting performance expectations. The impact of future supermarket closings is not expected to be material."

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