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Supervalu reports loss for 4Q

 Supervalu Inc. said April 10 that it swung to a loss in the fourth quarter as a result of impairment charges and costs related to store closures and layoffs. But excluding those items, the company’s results beat Wall Street’s expectations, sending its shares up 15 percent.

The struggling operator of Albertsons, Jewel-Osco and other grocery chains says it lost $424 million, or $2 per share, in for the three months ended Feb. 25. That’s compared with a profit of $95 million, or 44 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Not including one-time items, the Minneapolis-based company said it earned 38 cents per share. That topped the 35 cents per share expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

The better-than-expected results come as Supervalu has been trying to turn its business around by closing stores, slashing jobs, selling off some businesses and lowering its debts. The company has also been trying to emphasize its discount chains and tailoring stores to suit local needs.

Supervalu says it’s still working on its recovery, but investors largely seem to have lost hope. Since July 2007, its stock has fallen almost 90 percent; it closed April 9 at $5.32, down from nearly $50. On the news of its improved quarterly results April 10, Supervalu’s shares rose 80 cents to $6.12. But that’s still roughly half the price it was trading about a year ago.

In a release issued April 10, Supervalu CEO Craig Herkert said he was pleased with the results of the launch of the company’s “business transformation” in the past year.

In the last quarter of fiscal 2011, Supervalu said net sales were $8.23 billion, compared with $8.66 billion in the year-ago period. Gross profit fell to $1.88 billion, or 22.8 percent of sales, from $2.02 billion, or 23.3 percent of sales a year ago. The company said the drop in gross profit reflected increased advertising expenses and retail price changes.

Goodwill and intangible asset charges rose to $525 million, from $30 million a year ago. When adjusting for those costs, the company said selling and administrative expense declined to $1.64 billion, from $1.75 billion a year ago, reflecting cost reduction initiatives.

For the full year, the company said net income not including one-time items was $265 million, or $1.25 per share. For fiscal 2013, the company said it expects to earn between $1.27 and $1.42 per share. That was higher than the $1.18 per share forecast by analysts.

Supervalu has about 4,300 stores across the country.

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