Empire Company, which owns Canada's second-largest supermarket chain, Sobeys, has reported a 24.4% rise in consolidated operating income for the third quarter to C$90.7m (US$91.9m).

Sobeys' contribution to operating income was $68.7m, 43.1% higher than last year.

Empire recorded third-quarter net earnings of C$48.6m, up from $31.9m in the corresponding quarter last year, on revenues up 6.7% at $3.5bn.

"In an increasingly competitive environment both our food and real estate divisions remain focused on the superior execution of their respective strategies," said president and CEO Paul Sobey. "For Sobeys this includes an unwavering commitment to competitive pricing, continued improvements in product innovation and mix, improved execution in the stores as well as an ongoing focus on cost reduction and productivity improvements."
   
Sobey said that consolidated earnings in the third quarter had benefited from gaining 100% ownership of Sobeys in June.

Sobeys' revenue reached $3.44bn, representing an increase of 6.5%. Third-quarter same-store sales rose by 2.0%. Empire said that in aggregate terms there had been no retail food inflation in the third quarter.

The company attributed Sobeys' retail sales growth to the continued implementation of
sales and merchandising initiatives and sustained competitive pricing across the country, coupled with an increase in retail selling square footage from new stores, enlargements and the acquisition in September of Thrifty Foods, which posted third-quarter sales of $145.8m.