said its fourth-quarter earnings dropped sharply on declining revenue and an accounting charge.

The supermarket chain earned $205 million, or 54 cents a share, in the quarter ended Jan. 30. That was down from $290 million, or 71 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.

Excluding income from discontinued operations, restructuring expenses and other one-time charges, Albertsons earned $195 million, or 52 cents ashare, down from earnings of $259 million, 63 cents a share, a year ago.

Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call were expecting Albertsons to earn 52 cents a share on this basis.

The grocery retailer saw its revenue fall more than 2% to $9.11 billion as it closed 226 stores and exited four major metropolitan areas.

Meanwhile, Albertsons adopted an accounting change that governs how it recognizes marketing revenue from vendors. The accounting change decreasedearnings by $6.1 million in the fourth quarter and led to a retroactive one-time charge of $93.7 million in the first quarter.

In fiscal 2003, Albertsons expects to post earnings between $2.08 to $2.13 a share. The company said it would no longer provide guidance forquarterly earnings.

Analysts had projected that Albertsons would earn $2.11 a share in 2003.