09/12/2013 07:35 EDT | Updated 11/12/2013 05:12 EST

Empire's Q1 results miss expectations; sales up less than expected, profit down

STELLARTON, N.S. - Empire Company Ltd. (TSX:EMP.A) says its first-quarter net earnings were below expectations, reflecting a highly competitive grocery market, costs associated with buying Canada Safeway and the discontinuation of its theatre business.

The Nova Scotia-based company's overall sales were up about 2.2 per cent to $4.6 billion, from $4.5 billion, with the bulk coming from its Sobeys grocery division.

But the revenue growth was below estimates, and Empire's net income fell to $65 million from $107.6 million a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings from continuing operations dropped to $1.32 per share from $1.51 per share — missing analyst estimates by 23 cents per share.

Sobeys had $4.59 billion of sales during the quarter, up $98.2 million or 2.2 per cent from a year earlier.

Sales from Empire Theatres were recorded as discontinued operations. Sales from discontinued operations increased to $55 million from $48.6 million. However net loss from discontinued operation increased to $17.6 million or 26 cents per share, compared to $500,000 a year earlier.

Earnings from continuing operations dropped to $82.6 million or $1.21 per share, from $108.1 million or $1.59 per share in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year.