CHICAGO -- Safeway Inc. advanced the most ever Thursday after the second-largest U.S. grocery chain reported fourth-quarter profit that exceeded analysts' estimates on higher stores sales.
The shares climbed 14 per cent to $22.97 at the close in New York for the biggest gain since the company's 1990 initial public offering.
Safeway is working to compete with big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with its grocery and fuel loyalty programs.
Net income in the quarter ended Dec. 29 rose 13 percent to $244 million, or $1.02 a share, from $215.6 million, or 67 cents, a year earlier, the Pleasanton, Calif.-based company said in a statement Thursday. Excluding gains from legal settlements, profit was 94 cents a share. Analysts estimated 76 cents, the average of 19 projections compiled by Bloomberg.
Revenue increased 1.2 per cent to $13.8 billion, helped by higher gift- and prepaid-card sales and an 0.8 per cent gain in identical-store sales, excluding fuel.
Safeway has advanced 27 per cent this year compared with a gain of 4.4 percent for the Standard & Poor's 500 Food Retail Index. The company has about 1,640 stores in the U.S. and Canada.
-- Bloomberg News