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Robert Trigaux

What's this? Earnings slip on Aisle 9 at Publix



Wake up and good morning. If you're a Floridian, you have to admire Publix Super Markets. The Lakeland grocery giant, more than 1,000 stores strong, is that rare Florida-based corporation with enough clout and smarts to compete with anybody, anywhere. And it's No. 1 market spot in the Florida grocery business is testimony to its unusual ability to blend competitive style, employee loyalty and consumer awareness to stay ahead of the likes of Wal-Mart, Sweetbay, Winn-Dixie, newly arrived Aldi and other comers to the Florida food retailing world. So far. Just consider its most recent strategy into organic foods and its branding of the Greenwise name in this story from St. Petersburg Times business writer Mark Albright.

Still, it makes one wonder this week when Publix reported earnings with a substantial decline (18.9 percent!) in earnings. That's just not the Publix way, and certainly reinforces the impact of our nasty economic climate. Let's look at Publix's quarterly earnings since the start of 2007 and compare:

Third quarter 2008: $201.8-million vs year ago, down 18.9 percent.

Second quarter 2008: $295.8-million vs year ago, down 3.5 percent.

First quarter 2008: 343.2-million vs year ago, up 8.1 percent

Fourth quarter 2007: 311-million vs year ago, up 6.5 percent.

Third quarter 2007: $249-million vs year ago, down 1.5 percent.

Second quarter 2007: $306.4-million vs year ago, up 16 percent.

First quarter 2007: $317.6-million vs year ago, up 10.1 percent.

So what do we have see? The latest quarterly earnings are the lowest in quite awhile. Publix, being a privately-held company, does not share many insights on its performance. Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw acknowledged in a brief statement that times are tough. "Our costs are continuing to rise while many customers are struggling to make ends meet. So our results and stock price were significantly affected by this difficult operating environment.”

Publix's stock dropped 9 percent to $17.90 per share since the last valuation when it was $19.70 per share. The company's stock is not publicly traded and is sold only to employees and board members. The share price is determined through an independent appraisal.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:22am]


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