US retailer Safeway posted a slight rise in third quarter earnings helped by higher gas sales.

Net income increased to US$199.7m ($0.46 per diluted share) from $194.6m ($0.44 per diluted share) for the same period last year.

Total sales rose 3.9% to $10.2bn in the third quarter of 2008 compared to $9.8bn for fiscal 2007, driven by higher fuel sales and contributions from the company's Lifestyle stores.

Identical-store sales increased 2.8% including fuel and 0.5% excluding fuel.

"During the third quarter we took action to provide our customers with better everyday values," said Steve Burd, chairman, president and CEO. "As we begin the fourth quarter, our sales momentum is building, with identical-store sales (excluding fuel) currently above 1.5%, and we are continuing to reduce costs."

Safeway estimates diluted earnings per share for 2008 to be in the range of $2.25 to $2.35 for the 53-week year."