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MINNEAPOLIS - Shares of Nash Finch Co. slid 18 percent to $12.33 Thursday after the company postponed the release of already-downgraded third-quarter earnings, the Star Tribune reports.
Edina, Minn.-based Nash Finch, a food wholesaler and retailer, gave no official explanation for the postponement. The company, however, has told at least one analyst the move was necessary because its new auditor was not yet up to speed, according to the Star Tribune.
In July Nash Finch said it had replaced Ernst & Young with Deloitte & Touche as its auditor.
Analyst Eric Larson at U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis said he's accepting the company's explanation that the postponement was tied to accounting rather than any additional earnings problems. "It's still a black eye for management, though. They shouldn't let something like this happen," he said.
Larson said he could recall only a couple of other earnings postponements in his 25 years of finance work.
Nash Finch's conference call and earnings release for the quarter that ended Oct. 5 now will be held Nov. 18. Both originally were slated for Thursday.
Nash Finch Chief Executive Ron Marshall was unavailable for comment Thursday.
The company, which has annual revenue of $4.1 billion, lowered its quarterly and fiscal earnings estimates in late September, blaming heightened competition and the sluggish economy for shortfalls in its retail operations. At the time, it revised estimates to 58 to 62 cents for the third quarter and 60 cents to 65 cents for the fourth. Fiscal earnings were downgraded to a range of $2.32 to $2.41 compared with earlier guidance of $2.50 to $2.55 per share.
Nash Finch owns and operates 112 stores in the Upper Midwest under banners such as Buy n Save, Econofoods, Sun Mart, Family Thrift Center and Avanza. Its distribution business serves independent retailers and military commissaries in 28 states, the District of Columbia and Europe. About 25 percent of its revenue comes from its military contracts.