* Metro Q4 EPS C$1.46 vs 83 cents year earlier
* Loblaw Q3 EPS 77 Canadian cents vs 83 cents
* Same-store sales up 1.1 pct at Metro, Loblaw off 0.2 pct
Nov 14 Loblaw Cos Ltd, Canada's biggest grocer,
raised its dividend even as it reported lower quarterly profit
on Wednesday, while rival Metro Inc said its profit rose, helped
by an extra week in the quarter and a recent acquisition.
Loblaw's sales at established stores fell 0.2 percent
in the third quarter. Still, it raised its dividend by 1 cent to
22 Canadian cents a share.
Loblaw's operating margin slipped to 4.1 percent from 4.3
percent as labor and other operating costs rose.
Loblaw, majority-owned by George Weston Ltd, said
net earnings fell to C$222 million, or 77 Canadian cents a
share, from C$236 million, or 83 Canadian cents, a year earlier.
Revenue rose 1.0 percent to C$9.83 billion.
Analysts looked for earnings of 78 Canadian cents a share on
revenue of C$9.84 billion.
Loblaw has been spending to secure the loyalty of its
customers as competition heats up, paying to improve its product
assortment and customer service and holding back on price
increases even as input costs rise.
For the full year, Loblaw expects to make incremental
investments of C$50 million ($50 million) in what it calls its
"customer proposition," up from C$40 million previously.
Much of the competition is coming from Wal-Mart Stores Inc
. Its Canadian unit said in February it would remodel or
open 73 stores by the end of 2012, its most ambitious expansion
ever. It was slated to open 28 new stores in October, and has
been converting many existing locations to "supercenters" that
feature a wider array of grocery items.
METRO SAME-STORE SALES UP
Loblaw's smaller rival, Metro, said net earnings
rose to C$145.1 million, or C$1.46 a share, from C$84.4 million,
or 83 Canadian cents.
Excluding closure costs and other items, adjusted earnings
rose 24.8 percent to C$123.4 million, or C$1.24 a share.
Analysts, on average, expected earnings of C$1.18 a share,
according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Metro, which also competes with Empire Co Ltd's
Sobeys, sees competition remaining strong in 2013.
In its fiscal fourth quarter fiscal ended Sept. 29, Metro's
sales and profit margin were boosted by its purchase of a 55
percent stake in Mediterranean food seller Marche Adonis and its
distributor Phoenicia Products in October 2011.
Same-store sales rose 1.1 percent in the quarter ended Sept.
29, and gross profit margin increased to 18.5 percent from 17.7
percent a year earlier.
Metro's sales climbed 11.1 percent to C$2.94 billion,
compared with the analysts' consensus target of C$2.88 billion.
Excluding the extra week in the latest quarter, sales rose 2.5