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Fleming Cos., supplier of area Jubilee supermarkets, reported a fourth-quarter loss of $37.4 million, or 96 cents a share, amid restructuring charges.

That compares to a loss of $3.8 million, or 10 cents a share in the prior year's quarter. The country's second largest wholesale food seller was dogged by a series of one-time expenses related to asset write-downs, lease liabilities and other costs tied to the sale of several retail stores.

In the past year Fleming sold off five of its Buffalo-area supermarkets to independent operators, and closed two others as part of a corporate refocusing away from retail operations, back to wholesale opportunities. The company's belt-tightening also hit home at its Cheektowaga distribution center, which was shuttered last summer in favor of a food warehouse in Massillon, Ohio.

Excluding impairment and restructuring charges, the company would have posted earings from operations of $21.2 million, or 53 cents a share. Fourth-quarter sales rose 3.7 percent to $3.63 billion, from $3.5 billion, boosted by strong growth in independent food retail sales and new retail channel business.

For Fiscal 2000, the company reported adjusted income of $62.2 million or $1.56 a share.

Looking ahead, the Dallas-based food company expects even stronger sales due to the signing of a 10-year deal with Kmart to become its sole food supplier. The contract is valued at about $4.5 billion annually.

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