Stater Might Have Interest in 6-8 Albertsons

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Stater Bros. Markets [2] here implied it could be interested in acquiring between six and eight Albertsons stores in Southern California if Supervalu [3] were to put locations up for sale.

Speaking with bondholders, Jack Brown, chariman and chief executive officer, never mentioned either Albertsons or Supervalu by name. However, responding to a question about what Stater would do “if a large pool of stores becomes available, as seems likely,” Brown said Stater had looked at every store potentially available “very carefully, and there might be six to eight that fit into our plan.”

For the 13-week third quarter ended June 24, net income fell 4.7% to $7.3 million — as Stater lowered margins to drive sales — while sales rose 1.1% to $949.8 million and same-store sales also rose 1.1%. For the 39-week period, net income rose 65.1% to $32.7 million, while sales were up 3.5% to $2.8 billion and same-store sales rose 3.5%.

Read more: Supermarket CEOs Optimistic Despite Weak Economy [4]

The company said the jump in net income for the year to date resulted in part from a decline of $10.1 million in interest expenses compared with the same period a year ago following the pay down of approximately $125 million of debt and a refinancing of most of the balance during last year’s first quarter.

The company said promotional efforts resulted in a decline in gross profit margins for the quarter to 26.45% of sales, compared with 26.76% a year ago, though on a year-to-date basis margins rose to 27.09%, compared with 26.72%.

“We will continue to move margins around as necessary to meet competition while protecting our volume,” Brown said.

He said customer counts during the quarter rose by 1.7 million, or about 2%.

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