US retailer Safeway has reported net income of US$173.5m ($0.39 per diluted share) for the fourth quarter to the end of December, 2005, against $202.7m ($0.45 per diluted share) for the corresponding quarter of 2004.

The company said fourth-quarter net income in 2005 had been reduced by a total of $0.12 per diluted share for previously announced store exit activities in Texas and employee buyouts.

"We are very pleased with our 2005 results," said chairman, president and CEO Steve Burd. "When adjusted for Easter, our same store sales grew stronger each quarter and we increased market share in the US supermarket channel 51 of 52 weeks in 2005. We also completed the restructuring of our labour contracts and are beginning to experience solid operating and administrative expense leverage."

Total sales rose by 5.8% to $12.0bn in the fourth quarter of 2005 from $11.4bn in Q4 of 2004. Comparable store sales increased by 5.4% and identical store sales, which exclude replacement stores, rose by 5.1%.

Net income for the full year reached $561.1m, or $1.25 per diluted share, against $560.2m, which also represented $1.25 per diluted share, in 2004. Turnover rose by 7.2% from $35.8bn to $38.4bn. Safeway attributed the sales growth to its marketing strategy, the development of its Lifestyle concept and increased fuel sales.