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Empire selling gas stations in Western Canada, reports Q2 profit up from year ago

Sales in what was the second quarter of the company's 2023 financial year totalled $7.64 billion

Empire Co. Ltd. is selling 56 gas stations in Western Canada to a subsidiary of Shell Canada for about $100 million in cash.

The Sobeys parent company announced the sale of the retail fuel sites to Canadian Mobility Services Ltd. on Thursday (Dec. 15) as it reported its latest quarterly earnings.

It also revealed new details of a cybersecurity event last month that shut down pharmacy services and some in-store services such as self-checkout machines for several days. The company said it took certain systems off-line "out of an abundance of caution'' and is continuing to investigate.

Empire estimated the cost of the cybersecurity disruption at $25 million, net of insurance recoveries, on its 2023 annual net earnings.

The Sobeys parent company reported earnings of $189.9 million or 73 cents per share for the quarter ended Nov. 5, up from $175.4 million or 66 cents per share in the same quarter last year.

Sales in what was the second quarter of the company's 2023 financial year totalled $7.64 billion, up from $7.32 billion in the same quarter last year.

Same-store sales were up 3.9 %, while same-store sales, excluding fuel sales, were up 3.1%.

"Our team put up another solid quarter with improved same-store sales of 3.1%, including double-digit growth for Voila,'' Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire and Sobeys, said in a statement.

"Despite a persistent inflationary environment, the fundamentals of our business remain strong. The continued momentum and solid performance seen across our full service and discount banners are a direct result of our Project Horizon initiatives.''

Under its Project Horizon business strategy, the company said it has overhauled its online sales platform, improved its product sourcing and expanded and renovated its store network.

Meanwhile, the company's food retailing business which operates several chains including Sobeys, Safeway, FreshCo and Farm Boy recorded net earnings of $158.0 million during the quarter, down from a profit of $159.3 million during the same period last year.

In an outlook, the company said the grocery industry continues to experience inflationary pressures, particularly related to cost of goods sold and fuel, and supply chain challenges due to ongoing labour shortages.

The company said it remains focused on supplier relationships and negotiations to ensure competitive pricing for consumers.

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