The company reported fourth quarter net sales of $10.4 billioncompared to $10.3 billion for the same period last year, with netearnings of $156 million, an increase of 30% compared to $120million in Q4 2006. However the company said in a statement thatfourth quarter retail net sales were $8.1 billion compared to $8.2billion last year, "primarily reflecting the impact of storeclosures in the acquired operations (the company bought most ofAlbertsons in 2006), combined with flat identical store sales."

Jeff Noddle, chairman and CEO, said in Thursday's call that thecompany saw a drop in pharmacy sales in the fourth quarter,possibly due to a mild flu season, and fewer customers, thoughhigher average purchases that could be traced to inflation of foodprices. "In addition, we are seeing evidence of customers managingtheir budget and focusing on value, with increased movement ofpromotional items, economy sizes and our own brand," he said duringthe call.

The company saw a record $44 billion in sales for all of fiscal2008, Noddle said. The firm expects to hit $45 to $45.5 billion infiscal 2009, with an earnings guidance range of $3.06 to $3.22 perdiluted share. Stores owned by the company include Save-A-Lot, CubFoods and Chicago's Jewel-Osco.

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