updated 6/2/2004 9:49:02 AM ET 2004-06-02T13:49:02

Food and drug retailer Albertson's Inc. on Wednesday reported first-quarter adjusted earnings from continuing operations of $56 million, or 15 cents per share, beating First Call estimates of 11 cents per share.

The latest first quarter including several one-time charges, related to the company's Southern California labor dispute, legal costs, a multi-year workers-compensation adjustment, the reorganization of the Dallas/Ft. Worth division, and Albertson's exit from the New Orleans market. Excluding these items, first-quarter earnings from continuing operations would have been 46 cents per diluted share.

Including all items, Albertson's reported first-quarter earnings of $36 million, or 10 cents per share, compared with $172 million, or 47 cents per share, in 2003.

Albertson's total sales fell to $8.7 billion from $8.9 billion a year ago, primarily due to the company's Southern California labor dispute, which Albertson's estimates hurt sales by about $386 million. Total same-store sales, the best measure of a retailer's health, fell 3.7 percent. Excluding the Southern California stores involved in the labor dispute, total company same-store sales rose 0.3 percent.

Larry Johnston, chairman, CEO and president, commented, "The labor dispute in Southern California was settled successfully and our sales recovery is ahead of plan driven by the launch of dual branding and aggressive merchandising. In addition, since the end of the quarter we closed the acquisition of Shaw's and the integration process is on schedule."

Albertson's reiterated earnings per share estimates for fiscal 2004 in a range of $1.40 to $1.50 per share, including Shaw's operations. As reported, this guidance includes a high level of Southern California promotional spending in the first half of 2004, which is expected to decline in the second half of 2004.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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