NEWS WATCH: A&P TO DOUBLE CAP-EX IN 2004, ROLL OUT NEW FORMATS...WILD OATS REPORTS 8.5% COMPS AIDED BY STRIKE...FLEMING REJECTS GROUP'S OFFER TO BUY CORE-MARK

A&P TO DOUBLE CAP-EX IN 2004, ROLL OUT NEW FORMATSe its capital expenditures in 2004 as it seeks to reverse ongoing losses and roll out its Food Basics format. It also has begun introducing some elements from a "fresh" prototype in Toronto to stores in the United States. A&P posted comparable-store sales gains of 1.5% for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28, but its loss for the period was $57.1 million,

A&P TO DOUBLE CAP-EX IN 2004, ROLL OUT NEW FORMATS

e its capital expenditures in 2004 as it seeks to reverse ongoing losses and roll out its Food Basics format. It also has begun introducing some elements from a "fresh" prototype in Toronto to stores in the United States. A&P posted comparable-store sales gains of 1.5% for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 28, but its loss for the period was $57.1 million, vs. $21 million in the year-ago fourth quarter. The most recent quarter included restructuring charges of about $39 million. For the year, A&P posted a loss of $145.6 million, vs. $193.5 million in the preceding year. Sales were up 14.1% for the quarter, to $2.7 billion, and 7.1% for the year, to $10.8 billion. Comp-store sales increased 0.9% for the year.

WILD OATS REPORTS 8.5% COMPS AIDED BY STRIKE

BOULDER, Colo. -- Wild Oats Markets here last week reported comparable-store sales gains of 8.5% during its fiscal first quarter ended March 27, sparked in part by effects of the labor dispute in Southern California. Excluding the five Wild Oats and 17 Henry's Marketplace stores affected by the strike, comps were up by 3.6%, the company said. Wild Oats reported earnings of $2.4 million on sales of $264 million. Earnings were up 63.7%, and sales climbed by 11.4% from the same period a year ago. Company officials attributed the sales increase to aftereffects of the Southern California strike-lockout and to six new stores.

FLEMING REJECTS GROUP'S OFFER TO BUY CORE-MARK

DALLAS -- Fleming Cos. here rejected an offer by a group of Texas businessmen to pay $315 million to acquire Core-Mark International, the convenience-store distribution business that is Fleming's primary remaining operating division, according to bankruptcy court records. The group, which calls itself CVCMA, includes former Wal-Mart executive Bill Fields, according to reports. CVCMA could not be reached for comment.

ALBERTSONS GETS ANTITRUST OK, COMPLETES SHAW'S BUY

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertsons here said it received antitrust clearance and completed the previously announced acquisition of JS USA Holdings, which operates 204 Shaw's and Star Markets in New England, from British retailer J Sainsbury. Albertsons estimated cost synergies of $100 million to $200 million in fiscal 2006 from the merger. Paul Gannon will remain president and chief executive officer of Shaw's, the company said. Separately, Albertsons last week said it would offer 40 million $25 notes to repay debt from the acquisition. It expects $1 billion in gross proceeds.