A&P Loss Narrows

Sales are flat for the quarter.
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A&P (GAP) narrowed its fourth-quarter loss as the grocer continued turnaround efforts and saw sales growth at its Northeastern stores.

The company posted a loss of $7.2 million, or 17 cents a share, for the quarter ended Feb. 24. A year earlier, its loss totaled $39.1 million, or 95 cents a share.

The results for the latest period included several one-time items for restructuring, real estate-related activity and Hurricane Katrina. Excluding items, A&P posted an adjusted loss from operations of $7.6 million.

Sales were flat at $1.61 billion, but beat Wall Street's forecast of $1.59 billion.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, dropped 1.5%. A&P attributed the decline to weak economic conditions in the Midwest and a sales lift in the year-ago period after Hurricane Katrina.

In the company's core Northeast operations, same-store sales increased 0.9% for the quarter.

On Tuesday, A&P said it was in negotiations for the potential sale of its Midwest business, Farmer Jack. The company operates 66 Farmer Jack stores in the Detroit metro area.

"Our Farmer Jack operations in Michigan again presented our most difficult challenge in Fiscal 2006, and as just announced, we are resolving that situation through the potential divestiture of that business," Eric Claus, A&P president and CEO, said in a statement.

A&P owns 406 stores under names such as A&P, Waldbaum's and Food Emporium. In March, the company announced plans to buy

Pathmark Stores

(PTMK)

for about $679 million in cash and stock.

"Overall, our positive results were in line with internal forecasts in most key measurements," Claus said. "With continued focus on current strategies and the successful integration of Pathmark, we are confident of accelerated improvement in fiscal 2007."

Shares of A&P recently were down 20 cents, or 0.6%, to $33.19.