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    Winn-Dixie Posts Solid Q3; Raises FY ’09 Outlook

    Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. posted higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings and an increased profit forecast for the balance of the fiscal year, which ends in June after tabbing net income of $16.6 million or 30 cents per share, vs. $15 million or 28 cents per share for the same period a year ago.

    Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. posted higher-than-expected third-quarter earnings and an increased profit forecast for the balance of the fiscal year, which ends in June after tabbing net income of $16.6 million or 30 cents per share, vs. $15 million or 28 cents per share for the same period a year ago. Analysts expected Winn-Dixie to earn between 7 cents and 22 cents a share in the quarter, according to Thomson Financial.

    The Jacksonville, Fla.-based supermarket chain’s third-quarter net sales of $1.7 billion were also up slightly from $1.72 billion in the year-ago quarter, while same-store sales also rose 0.2 percent; after adjusting for the shift of the Easter holiday into the fourth quarter this year, the regional retailer said its same store sales would have risen by 1.2 percent.

    "I am very pleased with our financial performance this quarter, which reflects our success maintaining an appropriate balance between sales and gross margin," said Winn-Dixie’s CEO, Peter Lynch, who noted that the company’s strong results prompted an upgrade of its annual adjusted EBITDA guidance for the fiscal year to a range of $145 million to $152 million. “Our updated guidance reflects a significant increase in growth over fiscal 2008 adjusted EBITDA of $101.9 million, despite the challenges posed by the economy,” said Lynch.

    Noting that the company’s key long-term initiatives -- including its store remodeling program, merchandising, marketing and corporate brands programs -- are all on track, Lynch said he’s “confident that we have the right strategies in place to generate sustainable long-term sales growth and profitability by offering customers better quality, service and value for their shopping dollars."

    Expecting to complete the remodeling of half of its 520 stores by the end of fiscal 2010 and all of them by the end of fiscal 2013, Lynch, in addressing Winn-Dixie’s liquidity, said that based on a “strong cash position and our preliminary review of our capital plan for next year, we anticipate that in fiscal 2010 we will again have no borrowings under our credit facility."

    As of April 1, 2009, Winn-Dixie had approximately $661.6 million of liquidity, consisting of $484.3 million of borrowing availability under its credit agreement and $177.3 million of cash and cash equivalents.

    Net sales for the 40 weeks ended April 1, 2009, were $5.7 billion, an increase of $61.2 million compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year; same-store sales from continuing operations increased 1 percent vs. the same period in the prior fiscal year. Gross profit as a percentage of net sales, meanwhile, was 28 percent, an increase of 100 basis points compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year.

    Winn-Dixie operates 520 retail grocery locations, including more than 400 in-store pharmacies, in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi.

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