Metro reports fourth-quarter profit and sales up from year ago

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Metro Inc. said its fourth-quarter profit rose by more than 10 per cent compared with a year ago, as the grocery and pharmacy retailer continued to see strong sales growth tied to the pandemic.

The company, which includes the Metro grocery store chain and Jean Coutu drug stores, said Wednesday it earned $186.5 million or 74 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Sept. 26.

The result compared with a profit of $167.4 million or 66 cents per diluted share in the same quarter last year.

For its full financial year, Metro said sales grew more than seven per cent, with net earnings up 11.5 per cent to $796 million.

Metro chief executive Eric La Fleche called it a "strong performance across the board."

"After a strong first half of the year, our performance in the second half of the year was fueled in part by the sales growth caused by the pandemic," he told analysts during a conference call.

La Fleche said Metro expects food revenues will continue to grow at higher the normal rates over the short term as a portion of restaurant and food service sales continued to transfer to grocery stores.

For the quarter, La Fleche said in-store traffic improved, but remained down significantly year-over-year.

But he said the "larger basket" size -- an increase in the amount of groceries people buy -- more than offset the decrease in traffic.

Revenue for the 12-week period totalled $4.14 billion, up from nearly $3.86 billion.

Food same-store sales gained 10 per cent, while pharmacy same-store sales rose 5.5 per cent.

On an adjusted basis, Metro says it earned $193.1 million or 77 cents per share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of $174 million or 68 cents per share a year ago.

Metro operates a network of roughly 950 food stores under several banners including Metro, Metro Plus, Super C and Food Basics, as well as about 650 drugstores primarily under the Jean Coutu, Brunet, Metro Pharmacy and Drug Basics banners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2020.

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