US grocery retailer Albertsons has reported a sharp rise in net earnings to $186m in the fourth quarter ended 3 February 2005, compared with $129m in the same period a year earlier, but chairman and CEO Larry Johnston said he was not pleased with the performance.

For fiscal 2004, the company reported earnings from continuing operations of $474m

Earnings during the fourth quarter were impacted positively by the additions of Shaw's and Bristol Farms. Earnings were negatively impacted by additional costs associated with the Florida hurricanes, and by a non-cash lease charge due to a change in the Company's accounting method for leases.

The Company's quarterly and annual results were impacted by an extra week in fiscal 2004 versus fiscal 2003.

"We were not pleased with the performance we turned in during the fourth quarter," said Larry Johnston, chairman, CEO and president. "Although market and competitive conditions were more challenging than originally forecast, requiring deeper investments than anticipated, especially in the Southern California and Dallas/Ft. Worth markets, in the end we missed our earnings targets and that is unacceptable.

The company reported that fourth quarter 2004 total sales grew to $11bn as compared to $9 billion for the fourth quarter 2003. The increase in total sales was primarily due to the acquisition of Shaw's, the progress in recovery from the labour dispute in Southern California and the impact of new national merchandising programs.

Total company comparable store sales for the quarter increased 5.3% and identical store sales increased 5.1%. For fiscal 2004, the company reported total sales increased to $40 billion versus $35 billion for fiscal 2003. Total company comparable store sales for the year were +0.2% and identical store sales decreased 0.3%.