Supervalu Sees Uptick in Wholesale Sales; Retail Sales Down

MINNEAPOLIS (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS) - Supervalu Inc. began to see a rebound in its wholesale division but retail sales continued to slide, its fiscal third-quarter earnings report showed Wednesday.

The grocery company’s adjusted profit was $14 million for the three months ended Dec. 3, down from $16 million a year ago. The adjusted profit amounted to 5 cents a share, below the 13 cents a share that was the consensus forecast of investment analysts.

Supervalu shares fell $0.36, or 7.5 percent, to a close of $4.43 in trading Wednesday.

Sales were $3 billion, essentially flat compared to $3.05 billion a year ago.

The company’s bottom line, including charges for store closings and a pension-related settlement, showed a loss of $11 million, or 4 cents a share.

Net sales in its wholesale division, its largest segment, rose 0.2 percent while same store sales declined 5.7 percent. Last year, the company landed supply and distribution deals with retailers such as Fresh market, American Foods Basket and Marsh Supermarkets.

Supervalu, headquartered outside the Twin Cities, sold the discount grocery chain Save-A-Lot just before the September-to-November quarter started. The company reported that the sale reduced its debt by $1.1 billion. The company also made a $25 million cash contribution to its pension plan.

“The successful sale of Save-A-Lot early in the fourth quarter provides Supervalu with additional flexibility to operate and grow our business,” chief executive Mark Gross said in a statement. “Additionally, our Wholesale team has done a tremendous job delivering for our customers.”

He added the company’s retail unit, which includes the Cub Foods chain in the Twin Cities, remains under pressure from food price deflation and competition.