US grocery retailer Supervalu has reported a sharp rise in quarterly net earnings and said it expects further profit rises in fiscal 2005.

The company posted net earnings of US$95.6m, or 70 cents per share, for the fourth-quarter to 28 February, compared to $63.9m, or 48 cents per share, for the year-ago period. Net sales rose to $5.0bn from $4.6bn a year earlier.

Supervalu said fiscal 2004 was a 53-week fiscal year, resulting in an extra week in the fourth quarter, which generated approximately $360m in net sales and contributed approximately 7 cents in diluted earnings per share.

For the full-year the company reported net earnings of $280.1m, or $2.07 per share, compared to $257.0m, or $1.91 per share, in the previous year. Net sales were $20.2bn compared to $19.2bn last year.

"Fiscal 2004 was an excellent year that represented a culmination of strategic activities and everyday execution. Our efforts resulted in broad based sales momentum and industry leading comparable store sales as well as improved financial metrics, including earnings growth and return on invested capital. We successfully navigated a sluggish economy and competitive activity while implementing sizable initiatives across our company," said CEO Jeff Noddle.

The company said it expects fiscal 2005 earnings per share to be in the range of $2.75 to $2.90, which includes the net earnings impact of approximately 40 cents per share from the sale of Supervalu's interest in WinCo Foods.