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Empire reports $171.9M Q4 profit, increases quarterly dividend to 15 cents

Fourth-quarter sales fall compared to a year ago when shoppers stocked up at the start of COVID

Empire Company Ltd. raised its dividend as it reported its profit in its latest quarter fell compared with a year ago when shoppers stocked up at the start of the pandemic.

The grocer, which operates the Sobeys and Safeway stores in Canada, says it will now pay a quarterly dividend of 15 cents per share, up from 13 cents.

The increased payment to shareholders came as the company says it earned a profit attributable to its owners of $171.9 million or 64 cents per diluted share for the 13-week period ended May 1.

The result compared with a profit of $177.8 million or 66 cents per diluted share in the same quarter last year, which was boosted by six cents per share due to an unusual gain on the surrender of lease.

Sales totalled $6.92 billion in what was the company's fourth quarter, down from $7.01 billion a year earlier.

Same-store sales, a key metric for retailers, dropped 4.5%. Excluding fuel, same-store sales fell 6.1%.

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