NEW STORES BOOST LOBLAW

TORONTO -- Loblaw Cos. here said that new store openings -- 66 new stores opened and 57 stores closed for a net gain of 1.9 million retail square feet in the last four quarters -- drove sales gains for the third quarter and 40 weeks ended Oct. 4.flation remains low with some cost increases in the bakery and grocery categories partially offset by a decrease in produce.In the 16-week quarter, sales

TORONTO -- Loblaw Cos. here said that new store openings -- 66 new stores opened and 57 stores closed for a net gain of 1.9 million retail square feet in the last four quarters -- drove sales gains for the third quarter and 40 weeks ended Oct. 4.

flation remains low with some cost increases in the bakery and grocery categories partially offset by a decrease in produce.

In the 16-week quarter, sales increased 6.9% to $7.7 billion Canadian ($5.8 billion U.S.), and same-store sales grew 4.3%. Net earnings rose 16% to $163.1 million, and earnings per share were 59 cents, vs. 51 cents in last year's third quarter.

For the 40-week period, sales were up 8.1% to $14.1 billion. Net earnings increased 19% to $412.2 million, and earnings per share were $1.49, vs. $1.25 in the comparable period last year.