Israeli supermarket retailer Blue Square-Israel has posted a fourth-quarter profit, compared to a year-earlier loss, helped by cost-cutting measures.

The company reported net income of NIS22.4m (US$4.98m) for the fourth quarter to 2003, compared to a net loss of NIS97.3m for the year-ago period. Fourth-quarter revenues were virtually flat at NIS1.30bn.

The company said its results continue to reflect Israel’s ongoing recession, competition, and store closures.

Operating income for the fourth quarter of 2003 increased by 42.5% to NIS64.5m compared to NIS45.2m in the fourth quarter of 2002. The company said this increase reflected the success of Blue Square’s continuing cost-cutting measures, together with the quarter’s improved gross profit.

Blue Square said its same-store sales for the fourth quarter fell 5.5%, reflecting increased competition and the effect of discount stores opened by the company and its competitors.

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For 2003 the company reported a net loss of NIS7.0m, compared to a net profit of NIS7.2m in the previous year. Same-store sales fell 11.2% in 2003.