Canadian grocery retailer Sobeys has reported a sharp rise in fourth-quarter operating earnings, as same-store sales rose 1.7%.

Sobeys, Canada’s number two grocery chain, reported earnings from continuing operations of C$40.7m (US$30.2m), compared to $22.6m a year earlier. Earnings for the year-ago period were excluding an $80.7m gain on the sale of Sobeys’ Serca unit.

The company’s sales rose to $2.57bn from $2.42bn.

Looking ahead, Sobeys said it expects a sales rise of between 6% and 8% in fiscal 2004, with net earnings per share rising between 12% and 16%.