Metro ‘Encouraged’ by Conversions; Profits Jump

Metro Inc. said yesterday that its conversion of former A&P-owned stores in Ontario to the Metro banner has been well received by consumers, and that results from the stores are “encouraging.”

MONTREAL — Metro Inc. here said yesterday that its conversion of former A&P-owned stores in Ontario to the Metro banner has been well received by consumers, and that results from the stores are “encouraging.”

Eric LaFleche, the company’s president and chief executive officer, made the remarks during a conference call discussing Metro’s results for the fourth quarter, in which profits grew 25.5% and exceeded analysts’ estimates. In the quarter, which ended Sept. 27, Metro posted net income of about $58.4 million (U.S.) on sales of about $2 billion, a 1.8% improvement over year-ago sales results. Excluding one-time items, net income grew 8.2% in the fourth quarter. Same-store sales were up 1.5% in the period. LaFleche remarked that private-label sales have been especially strong, with sales gains in the low double digits over year-ago levels. For the year, net income rose 5.8%, to $236.5 million, on a sales gain of 0.8%, to $8.67 billion.

“Our sales momentum is improving,” said LaFleche, who unveiled a 15-month plan earlier this year to convert the conventional Ontario stores, which operate under several banners, to Metro’s flagship brand. Sixty stores will be converted by year-end, he said. “As we convert more and more stores, that’s good for our top line, and it’s good for same-stores sales.”

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