A Smaller Supervalu Sees Larger Loss, Misses Expectations

A Smaller Supervalu Sees Larger Loss, Misses Expectations

Supervalu, which is now about half of its previous size following the sale of several brands, reported a widened loss and declining sales, but analysts responded positively to remarks from the company's new CEO.

Supervalu, Inc., which is now a much smaller company after having divested several of its grocery chains, on Wednesday reported a wider quarterly loss, due largely to weak sales in its retail food segment.

But analysts appeared to respond positively to the vision laid out by the company's new CEO.

Eden Prairie-based Supervalu was Minnesota’s fourth-largest public company based on revenue until it sold off five grocery chains, including nearly 900 supermarkets, in a $3.3 billion deal that closed last month.

The company on Wednesday reported a net loss of $1.41 billion, or $6.65 per share, for the quarter that ended February 23. That’s roughly three times larger than the loss posted during last year’s fourth quarter, although it doesn’t account for the recent divestiture of several brands.

Supervalu’s net loss from continuing operations—which excludes the sold-off Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, and Star Market brands—totaled $179 million, or $0.85 per share.

Meanwhile, its adjusted quarterly loss—which excludes $149 million in charges that include employee severance payments—totaled $30 million, or $0.14 per share. Supervalu recently announced plans to cut about 1,100 corporate and regional office positions, including 600 in Minnesota.

Those adjusted earnings still fell far short of the $0.18 per share profit that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were expecting.

Supervalu’s loss widened as sales declined. Total revenue for the fourth quarter dropped 2.3 percent to $3.89 billion. The decline was due largely to a 4.4 percent drop in revenue in the company’s retail food segment, which the company said was “driven by competitive pressures in certain markets and a lower level of promotional spending.”

Despite what seem like dismal financial results, Supervalu’s underlying operating performance was actually better than expected, Citigroup stock analyst Deborah Weinswig reportedly wrote in a research note. Same-store sales at Save-A-Lot and the company’s five remaining regional supermarket chains, while down 2.3 percent and 4.1 percent respectively, didn’t fall as much as Citigroup expected, according to a report by the Star Tribune.

“This past quarter was largely about transitioning the company for the future, and I am proud of the many things we accomplished in my first 60 days,” Sam Duncan, who took over as president and CEO in February, said in a statement.

Supervalu’s stock fell in premarket trading Wednesday, but it soared later in the day following remarks made by Duncan during a conference call. In fact, it climbed 12 percent to close at $6.01.

Duncan outlined plans to revitalize Save-A-Lot and the wholesale business, as well as to pump up Supervalu’s five remaining regional supermarket chains, including Cub Foods in the Twin Cities, by decentralizing their management, according to a report by the Star Tribune. “Moving forward, our focus will be on being a low-cost operator,” Duncan reportedly told analysts.

For its full fiscal year, Supervalu reported $17.1 billion in revenue and a net loss from continuing operations of $263 million, or $1.24 per share, which included $187 million in charges related to severance and store closure expenses. Excluding those charges, the company’s net loss from continuing operations totaled $76 million, or $0.36 per share.

Supervalu’s business now includes a food wholesaler that serves about 1,900 stores across the country; Save-A-Lot, a discount grocery chain that has more than 1,300 stores in the United States; and about 200 locations under regional banners Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Shoppers, Shop ‘n’ Save, and Hornbacher’s.

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