US supermarket operator Pathmark Stores has reported a rise in quarterly net earnings, helped by a rise in same-store sales of 1.6%.

The company, which operates 142 supermarkets primarily in the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, said net earnings were US$9.6m, or 32 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter to 31 January, compared to $7.9m, or 26 cents per diluted share, in the prior year’s fourth quarter.

Sales for the fourth quarter rose 1.0% to $1.01bn from $1.00bn a year earlier.

“I am pleased with our sales and operating performance for the fourth quarter. In terms of the top line, we achieved our fourth consecutive quarterly increase in same-store sales, despite a continuation in the challenging market conditions we have experienced throughout the year. In addition, we benefited from the merchandising and expense control initiatives we launched early in the year, which continued to drive solid operating results,” said CEO Eileen Scott.

For fiscal 2004 the company expects to post earnings per diluted share of between $0.53 and $0.60, and same-store sales growth of 0.5% to 1.5%. Pathmark expects to open two stores, close one store and complete 20 store renovations in fiscal 2004.