01/26/2016 07:38 EST | Updated 01/26/2017 00:12 EST

Metro grocery business grows Q1 profit 24.3%, gets help from Couche-Tard stake

MONTREAL — The Metro grocery business had a $139.8 million profit in the quarter ended Dec. 19, up 24.3 per cent from a year earlier.

Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU) says same-store sales at locations open for at least a year were up 2.8 per cent and overall sales for its fiscal first quarter were up 4.3 per cent, rising to $2.96 billion.

The Montreal-based company attributed the improvement to improved merchandising strategies at its various banners.

It also got a boost from its investment in Alimentation Couche-Tard (TSX:ATD.A), the Montreal-based company that operates convenience stores and gas bars under the Circle K, Mac's and Couche-Tard banners. 

Metro's share of Couche-Tard's earnings was $30.6 million, up from $17.9 million a year earlier.

The company says its profit for its first quarter of fiscal 2016 amounted to 56 cents per share, both in net income and adjusted net income.

Its dividend will rise to 14 cents per common share for the March payment, up from 11.7 per share paid Nov. 25 and up from .

A year earlier, Metro's fiscal first-quarter net income was $112.5 million or 43 cents per share while adjusted net income was $116.8 million or 45 cents per share.

The Canadian Press