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ORLANDO-Even with a recorded gross loss of $172.8 million from discontinued stores, the 71-year-old, 1,073-unit Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. ended fiscal 2002 on June 26 with net earnings of $86.9 million or 62 cents per diluted share. That compares with $45.3 million or 32 cents in 2001.

Florida’s largest supermarket chain wasn’t as fortunate in the fourth quarter. The company showed a net loss of $21.9 million or a loss of 16 cents per diluted share compared to a positive $13 million or nine cents per diluted share in fourth quarter 2001.

But cash on hand, a perennial barometer of a company’s strength, grew to $228 million from $121 million on June 27, 2001.

In a prepared statement, Winn-Dixie chairman Allen R. Rowland attributes the fourth-quarter loss to the company’s May exit in Texas and Oklahoma. The grocer closed 71 stores in Texas, five in Oklahoma and shuttered a distribution center and dairy plant in Fort Worth, TX.

Winn-Dixie took a pre-tax loss on the discontinued operations of $126.4 million. The 172.8 million loss came to $100.3 million, net of income tax.

Sales from continuing operations for the fourth quarter and fiscal 2002 were up. For the quarter, revenue totaled $2.9 billion, an increase of $15.4 million or 0.5% compared with the same quarter last year.

For the fiscal year, sales were $12.3 billion, up $95.5 million or 0.8% versus the prior year.

Adjusted for the timing of the Easter holiday impact of about 1%, identical store sales from continuing operations increased 1.2% and comparable store sales were up 1.3% for the quarter. For the year, however, identical stores decreased 2.5% and comparable store sales were down 2.3%.

Rowland hailed the fourth-quarter identical store sales. “Our focus on sales includes our commitment to operate the best store in the neighborhood, provide value to our customers and attract customers through exciting marketing programs,” he says in the statement.

For fiscal 2002, the company opened five new stores averaging 45,900 sf; closed 85 stores averaging 45,100 sf; and enlarged or remodeled 29 stores locations.

Winn-Dixie’s 1,073 store total is down from 1,153 locations the company had last year. The firm’s total retail space of 47.5 million sf is 7% down over the prior year.

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