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SUDBURY, PA-Rising fuel and utility costs put a dent in earnings for regional supermarket chain Weis Markets, but despite those costs, the company posted an 11% increase in net income for the third quarter and a 13.3% rise in per share diluted earnings.

The Sudbury, PA-headquartered firm, which operates 157 stores in six Mid-Atlantic states, said its earnings rose to $13.7 million while per share earnings increased from 45 cents to 51 cents in the 13-week period ending Sept. 24, 2005. During the same period last year, earnings were $12.2 million or 45 cents a share. The third quarter results outperformed analysts estimates, which called for earnings of 48 cents per share.

Helped by increases in a number of center store categories and perishables–especially in produce where total sales for the third quarter increased to $535.3 million–the company saw a 3.2% hike compared the same period last year when earnings were $518.6 million. Comparable store sales for stores open at least a year also showed an increase of 3.3%.

Since the beginning of the year, the company’s net income rose 7% to $45.1 million while its year-to-date sales increased 3.9% to $1.6 billion. Comparable stores also showed a 3.7% increase since the beginning of the year. The company’s basic and diluted per share earnings delivered 7.7% more since the beginning of the year for total per share earnings of $1.67.

Much like its second quarter, the trend toward large increases in the company’s credit and debt interchange fees continued into the third quarter as a result of substantial rate hikes and consumer use of credit, the company said.

Weis Markets operate in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The company also owns the pet supply superstore chain, SuperPetz, which has 32 outlets in 11 states.

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