Q4 2012 Earnings Call Transcript

Transcript Call Date 02/21/2013

Operator: Welcome to the Safeway Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. Your lines have been place on listen-only until the question-and-answer session. This call is being recorded. If you have any objections, please disconnect at this time.

I would now like to turn the call over to Ms. Melissa Plaisance, Safeway's Senior Vice President of Finance and Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Melissa C. Plaisance - SVP, Finance and IR: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Safeway fourth quarter and 2012 earnings conference call. With me are Steve Burd, Chairman and CEO; Robert Edwards, President; and Pete Bocian, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

Before I begin, let me remind you that management will make statements during this conference call that includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. Forward-looking statements contain information about our future operating or financial performance. Forward-looking statements are based on our current expectations and assumptions and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results or events to be materially different from those anticipated. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any such statements as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. For a list and description of those risks and uncertainties, please see our filings with the SEC.

With that, let me turn the call over to Steve.

Steven A. Burd - Chairman and CEO: Thank you, Melissa. All my comments this morning on earnings will be earnings from continuing operations.

Let me start with earnings per share. Earnings per share in the quarter were $1.06. This compares very favorably with the $0.67 we earned in the same quarter one year ago. We did receive a benefit from legal settlements of about $0.12 a share. If you adjust for that our earnings in the quarter adjusted would be $0.94 a share which represents a 40% increase over the earnings per share we made one year ago.

Let me start with some highlights. Quarter four was our third consecutive quarter of market share gains. These market share gains were achieved despite a reduction, a small reduction in Safeway square footage and a market square footage increase of more than 1%. We gained 38 basis points of share in the supermarket channel and 10 basis points of share across all outlets. We achieved an ID sales increase excluding fuel of 0.8%. This increase was negatively impacted by the New Year's Eve calendar shift. It was also negatively impacted by the shift from generic drug. The calendar shift cost us about 30 basis points of sales, and the shift from two generic drugs cost us about 70 basis points.

Keep in mind, when we have the experience of shifting to generics, we make more money. So, the earning power of the sales is much greater. So, this plays out more like a 1.5% ID in terms of earning power.

We achieved a volume increase of 0.3% in the U.S., when the supermarket channel that we compete with declined 2.1% and all outlets that we compete within our markets declined 0.6%. Operating margin for the quarter improved 39 basis points and 10 basis points when the legal settlements and fuel are excluded.

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