Nash Finch Posts Profit Gains

MINNEAPOLIS — Nash Finch here posted first-quarter results that were better than analysts' weakened expectations, and it projected ongoing growth. Net income for the quarter, which ended on March 28, rose about 36%, to $14.4 million, on a 14% gain in sales, to $1.14 billion. Excluding the impact of the sales increase from the Jan. 31 acquisition of three military distribution centers, sales rose 2.4%.

MINNEAPOLIS — Nash Finch here posted first-quarter results that were better than analysts' weakened expectations, and it projected ongoing growth.

Net income for the quarter, which ended on March 28, rose about 36%, to $14.4 million, on a 14% gain in sales, to $1.14 billion. Excluding the impact of the sales increase from the Jan. 31 acquisition of three military distribution centers, sales rose 2.4%.

The quarter also was negatively impacted by the shift of Easter to this year's second quarter — adjusted for Easter, overall comparable sales were up 3.2%. Comparable-store sales in the retail division fell by 1.3%, but improved month by month, the company said.

In the retail segment, EBITDA declined 13.7%, to $5.7 million, on a 1.8% decline in sales, to $128.1 million, compared with the year-ago first quarter.

The company opened a new Avanza store in Aurora, Colo., about three weeks ago that is “hitting the ball completely over the fence,” said Alec Covington, president and chief executive officer, in a conference call discussing first-quarter results.

In the distribution segment, EBITDA was down 17.2%, to $20.9 million, on a 1.3% gain in sales, to $602 million. EBITDA as a percentage of sales was 3.5% in the period, compared with 4.3% in the year-ago first quarter. The company attributed the decline in EBITDA both to inflation in the year-ago period and to lower commodity prices in the more recent period.

Simeon Gutman, a New York-based analyst with Canaccord Adams, Vancouver, British Columbia, described the first-quarter results as “choppy,” with sales up but EBITDA weak.