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Dec 13, 2017

Sobeys’ parent warns on wages while adjusted profit more than doubles

Empire will turn 25% of western Canadian locations to FreshCo stores

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Michael Medline has delivered an essentially in-line quarter as his overhaul of Empire Company (EMPa.TO) continues.

The parent company of Sobeys announced adjusted profit more than doubled to 27 cents per share in its fiscal second quarter, putting the bottom line two cents ahead of expectations on Wednesday, while same-store sales excluding fuel decelerated from the previous quarter (0.4 per cent vs 0.5 per cent).

The company also announced plans to convert as many as 64 of its Safeway and Sobeys stores in Western Canada to its discount FreshCo banner over the next five years.

"This is a very attractive strategic and financial opportunity for us that will grow our market share in the Western provinces in a profitable way," Medline said in a release. "Our comprehensive research and analysis shows that the West is fertile ground for 'small box' discount and that our FreshCo banner will resonate with consumers in Western Canada."



Empire's stock has been on a tear since Medline took over as CEO in January, up 68 per cent.

However, the grocer continues to deal with headwinds even as its turnaround strategy progresses. The company warned in its earnings release that it might “not be able to fully offset the effects” of legislated wage hikes given the short transition period of the cost increases.