LOS ANGELES -- As Food 4 Less Supermarkets and Ralphs Grocery Co. move closer to their long-anticipated merger, both companies reported sales increases for their respective first quarters ended April 23. The $1.5 billion merger is expected to be completed by mid-June, a Food 4 Less spokesman told SN last week -- following a second week of arranging for purchasing of notes in the new entity. Ralphs, Compton, Calif., said sales for the 12-week quarter rose 3.5% to $637.5 million, while same-store sales fell 2.2%. Operating cash flow was $52.2 million, or 8.2% of sales, compared with $52.7 million, or 8.6% of sales, a year ago. Food 4 Less, La Habra, Calif., said preliminary results for the 12-week first quarter showed sales of $623.5 million, up 6.1%, while same-store sales dropped 2.3%. Operating cash flow was $30.1 million, or 4.8% of sales, compared with $30.2 million, or 5.1% of sales, a year ago. In anticipation of the merger with Ralphs, Food 4 Less changed its fiscal year-end to align with that of Ralphs. It will now be the Sunday closest to Jan. 31, instead of a June year-end.