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ASHEVILLE, NC-Sales were up 8.4% at Ingles Markets Inc. during the fourth quarter of 2005 while income from operations rose 14.8% over the same period a year earlier, the company said. It was the 42nd consecutive year of sales growth for the grocery chain since its founding in 1963. Net sales for the year were also up by 6.4% while income from operations for fiscal 2005 increased by the same 6.4% over the same period in 2004.

“We could not be more pleased with our continued trend of solid sales growth and operating income improvements,” Robert P. Ingle, chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the chain’s quarterly and fiscal year results.

Net income for the quarter ending Sept. 24 totaled $9.4 million compared to $10.8 million for the same quarter in 2004 while year-to-date net income totaled $26.6 million compared to $26.8 million in 2004. The company said the drop in net income was primarily due to an absence of real estate sales in fiscal 2005.

The Asheville, NC company, which operates about 200 stores in six Southeastern states said its net sales for the quarter grew to $590.7 million from $544.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2004 with annual net sales for 2005 of $2.3 billion, an increase from 2004′s $2.1 billion figure. Comparative store sales growth was 7.5% for the quarter and $6.1% for the year.

Income from operations also increased by $3.5 million in the fourth quarter and $5.6 million for the fiscal year primarily as a result of sales growth, the company said. A lack of real estate sales during the year decreased other income by $11.5 million for fiscal 2005 and $6.3 million for the fourth quarter. The company said the decline was due to an $11.8 million sale of property and equipment in fiscal 2004 that increased net gains during that year, including the disposal of property and equipment totally $6.7 million in the fourth quarter.

The company also opened four stores in fiscal 2005, renovated or expanded two others and closed three older stores for a total capital expenditure of $59.9 million.

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