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    Publix Q3 Sales Rose, Earnings Sank

    The grocer said profits took a hit from consumer belt tightening.

    Publix yesterday reported sales gains of 3.7 percent and a comps increase of 1.2 percent for the third quarter of 2008, but earnings for the period were down 18.9 percent, which it attributed to "this difficult operating environment."

    Publix said sales for the latest quarter were $5.8 billion, up from $5.6 billion for the same period last year. The grocer's net earnings, however, dropped to $201.8 million from $249 million in year ago period.

    Earnings per share for the third quarter of 2008 were $0.25, compared to $0.30 per share in 2007, the Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer said.

    "In these tough times, our costs are continuing to rise while many customers are struggling to make ends meet," said Ed Crenshaw, Publix c.e.o., of his company's performance, "so our results and stock price were significantly affected by this difficult operating environment. In spite of this, I'm proud of the effort Publix associates are putting forth to serve our customers."

    Publix's sales for the first nine months of 2008 were $17.9 billion, a 4.4 percent increase from last year's $17.1 billion. Net earnings for the first nine months of this year were $840.7 million, compared to $873 million in 2007, a decrease of 3.7 percent. Earnings per share for the first nine months of 2007 were $1.02, versus $1.04 in 2007.

    The Southeastern grocer's stock price decreased to $17.90, from $19.70 per share. Publix stock is not publicly traded, and is available for sale only to current Publix associates and members of its board of directors.

    These amounts are based on unaudited reports that will be filed this week with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The company's quarterly report to the SEC will be available Nov. 6, 2008 on its Web site.

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