Canadian food distributor Loblaw has reported a 16.6% rise in quarterly net earnings, despite some food price deflation.

The company posted net earnings of C$176m (US$128m), or 64 cents per share, for the first quarter to 27 March 2004, compared to earnings of $151m, or 55 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2003.

Sales for the quarter increased 5.6% to $5.7bn from $5.4bn a year earlier, while same-store sales increased 2.0%. Loblaw said it had achieved strong improvements in national food market share during the quarter. The company said sales growth and same-store sales growth in 2004 have been impacted by pricing activity and food price deflation.

Loblaw said its outlook for the remainder of the year is for continued good growth in sales and net earnings, constrained by food price deflation in certain markets.