SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Pueblo Xtra International here said sales declined and earnings turned positive for the year ended Jan. 30 as Hurricane Georges continued to affect the company's results.
Fiscal 1998 was a 52-week year, with a 12-week fourth quarter, while fiscal 1997 had an extra week in the year and quarter.
The company said sales for the year fell 16.4% to $784.7 million and comparable-store sales dropped 17%, while net income for the year was $8.9 million, compared with a loss of $5.5 million a year ago (which included an extraordinary charge for early extinguishment of debt).
Comparable-store sales for the retail-food division fell 18.3% for the year, while comparable-store sales in the Blockbuster division rose 10.8%.
For the fourth quarter, sales declined 17.6% to $186.5 million and comparable-store sales declined 12.4%, while net income increased 430% to $5.3 million. Comparable-store sales fell 13.9% in the retail-food division and rose 7.8% in the Blockbuster division.
The company said it attributed the decline in comparable-store sales for the year and fourth quarter to the aftermath of Hurricane Georges, increasing competition and the effects of repositioning Pueblo to offer a broader product mix while eliminating marginally profitable product lines.
The initial effects of the storm, "combined with continuing adverse weather, limited availability of merchandise due to store damage at the port here and recovery efforts continue to inhibit operations," the company said.
Pueblo said operating cash flow -- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization -- rose 24.1% to $83.4 million for the year and 31.3% to $23.5 million for the quarter.
According to William T. Keon 3rd, president and chief executive officer, "The strength the company has developed in its operating fundamentals is the reason Pueblo continued to improve earnings in the fourth quarter, despite the adversities resulting from Hurricane Georges.
"While the company is continuing to repair its facilities, we have already refocused on repositioning our business in terms of product mix and modernizing our stores. Our expectations for fiscal 2000 are that our business will continue to strengthen."
The company said insurance is expected to cover losses from the hurricane, including the retail value of lost inventory, replacement cost of damaged or destroyed operating assets, recovery costs and the effect of business interruption.
* Fiscal 1998 had 52 weeks and a 12-week fourth quarter; fiscal 1997 had 53 weeks and a 13-week fourth quarter.