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Empire Company Limited (EMP-A-T) Quote - Press Release

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Empire Company Delivers Solid Third Quarter Fiscal 2020 Earnings Growth

CNW Group - Thu Mar 12, 5:30AM CDT

Third Quarter Summary

--  Same-store sales excluding fuel increased by 0.8%
    --  Earnings per share of $0.45 compared to $0.24 last year
    --  Adjusted earnings per share of $0.46 compared to $0.27 last
        year
    --  Repurchased 1,519,829 shares for a total consideration of $48.0
        million

Empire Company Limited ("Empire" or the "Company") (TSX:EMP-A.TO) today announced its financial results for the third quarter ended February 1, 2020. For the quarter, the Company recorded adjusted net earnings of $123.7 million ($0.46 per share) compared to $72.9 million ($0.27 per share) last year, an increase of 69.7%.

"We are pleased with our progress. Our execution has markedly improved and we continue to grow our bottom-line much faster than our major competitors," said Michael Medline, President & CEO, Empire. "Project Sunrise is on track and the momentum continues with our expansions of FreshCo in the West and Farm Boy in Ontario, as well as the upcoming launch of Voilà in the GTA. And in May, we will unveil our next three-year plan."

Empire is in the final year of Project Sunrise. The strategy is on track and yielding benefits that are expected to exceed management's initial expectations. The Company realized approximately $100 million of these benefits during fiscal 2018 through organizational design, strategic sourcing cost reductions and improvements in store operations. In fiscal 2019, the Company realized a further approximate $200 million of benefits, driven by initial rollouts of category resets and cost reductions in other areas.

For fiscal 2020, management expects to achieve at least $250 million of in-year benefits for a cumulative benefit of at least $550 million, an increase in its original projection for the three-year program. These in-year benefits for fiscal 2020 are expected to result from the completion of the rollout of the category reset program, as well as continued cost reductions and operational improvements.

Normal Course Issuer Bid ("NCIB")

In the first quarter of fiscal 2020, the Company announced the establishment of a NCIB effective for one year from July 2, 2019. The NCIB allows for the purchase for cancellation of up to 3.5 million Non-Voting Class A shares ("Class A shares").

In the third quarter of fiscal 2020, the Company purchased for cancellation 1,519,829 Class A shares at an average price of $31.60 for a total consideration of $48.0 million. Year-to-date, as at February 1, 2020, the Company has purchased for cancellation 2,997,583 Class A shares at an average price of $33.36 for a total consideration of $100.0 million.

CONSOLIDATED OPERATING RESULTS

13 Weeks Ended
     39 Weeks Ended




       ($ in millions, except per                                      Feb. 1,
            Feb. 2,
        $               Feb. 1,
            Feb. 2,
        $



       share amounts)                                                     2020                     2019
        Change                  2020                 2019
        Change

    ---


       Sales                                       $

             6,395.2        $
            6,247.3 $
        147.9 $

          19,575.8   $
            18,921.6  $
        654.2



       Gross profit(1)                                                 1,557.7                  1,511.7        46.0                4,813.8              4,506.1        307.7



       Operating income                                                  235.0                    110.0       125.0                  787.5                458.1        329.4



       Adjusted operating income(1)                                      239.5                    119.8       119.7                  801.2                483.3        317.9



       EBITDA(1)                                                         426.9                    214.6       212.3                1,364.6                769.4        595.2



       Adjusted EBITDA(1)                                                426.9                    218.3       208.6                1,364.6                776.1        588.5



       Net earnings(2)                                                   120.5                     65.8        54.7                  405.7                265.2        140.5



       Adjusted net earnings(1)(2)                                       123.7                     72.9        50.8                  415.6                283.5        132.1

    ---





              Diluted earnings per share

    ---


       EPS(2)(3)                                      $

             0.45           $
            0.24  $
        0.21     $

           1.49       $
            0.97   $
        0.52

    ---


       Adjusted EPS(1)(2)                             $

             0.46           $
            0.27  $
        0.19     $

           1.53       $
            1.04   $
        0.49

    ===


       Diluted weighted average number of shares



       outstanding (in millions)                                         270.6                    272.5                             272.0                272.3

    ===


       Dividend per share                             $

             0.12           $
            0.11                $

           0.36       $
            0.33

    ===
13 Weeks Ended
       39 Weeks Ended



                                                         Feb. 1, 2020
          Feb. 2, 2019 Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019




       Same-store sales(1) growth                               1.0%                  2.5%         1.2%           2.6%



       Same-store sales growth, excluding fuel                  0.8%                  3.3%         1.7%           2.3%



       Gross margin(1)                                         24.4%                 24.2%        24.6%          23.8%



       EBITDA margin(1)                                         6.7%                  3.4%         7.0%           4.1%



       Adjusted EBITDA margin(1)                                6.7%                  3.5%         7.0%           4.1%



       Effective income tax rate                               27.4%                 22.1%        26.6%          25.8%

    ---
(1) See "Non-GAAP Financial
              Measures & Financial Metrics"
              section of this News Release.




     (2) Attributable to owners of the
              Company.




     (3) Earnings per share ("EPS").

Empire's results for the third quarter and year-to-date ended February 1, 2020 fully include Farm Boy operations whereas prior year comparatives include 8 weeks of Farm Boy operations. All metrics, including same-store sales, include the consolidation of Farm Boy operations.

IFRS 16 Impact

Effective May 5, 2019, the Company adopted IFRS 16 "Leases" ("IFRS 16"), which replaces IAS 17, "Leases" ("IAS 17") and related interpretations. IFRS 16 intends to align the presentation of leased assets more closely to owned assets. This standard will not impact Empire's strategy, business operations or cash flow generation. The following tables outline the impact of the adoption of IFRS 16 on certain financial metrics for the quarter and year-to-date ended February 1, 2020:

13 Weeks Ended                              Impact of       Change




       ($ in millions, except per share amounts)                           Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019
        Change        IFRS 16(1) (excl. IFRS
                                                                                                                                                                 16)

    ---


       Operating income                            $

           235.0              $
     110.0               $
          125.0   $
              40.0               $
              85.0



       Adjusted operating income                                     239.5                 119.8                       119.7               40.0                           79.7



       EBITDA                                                        426.9                 214.6                       212.3              127.6                           84.7



       Adjusted EBITDA                                               426.9                 218.3                       208.6              127.6                           81.0



       EBITDA margin                                                  6.7%                 3.4%                       3.3%              2.0%                          1.3%



       Adjusted EBITDA margin                                         6.7%                 3.5%                       3.2%              2.0%                          1.2%



       Finance costs, net                                             68.5                  24.6                        43.9               46.2                          (2.3)



       Net earnings(2)                                               120.5                  65.8                        54.7              (4.5)                          59.2



       Adjusted net earnings(2)                                      123.7                  72.9                        50.8              (5.6)                          56.4



       Adjusted EPS (fully diluted)                                   0.46                  0.27                        0.19             (0.02)                          0.21

    ---
(1) Reflects the impact of changing
              accounting standards from IAS
              17 to IFRS 16 in the first
              quarter of fiscal 2020.




     (2) Attributable to owners of the
              Company.
39 Weeks Ended                                 Impact of      Change




       ($ in millions, except per share amounts)                    Feb. 1, 2020
        Feb. 2, 2019
          Change
        IFRS 16(1)    (excl. IFRS
                                                                                                                                                          16)

    ---


       Operating income                            $

               787.5   $
             458.1             $
          329.4   $
             133.3             $
        196.1



       Adjusted operating income                                           801.2              483.3                     317.9              133.3                   184.6



       EBITDA                                                            1,364.6              769.4                     595.2              389.8                   205.4



       Adjusted EBITDA                                                   1,364.6              776.1                     588.5              389.8                   198.7



       EBITDA margin                                                        7.0%              4.1%                     2.9%              2.0%                   0.9%



       Adjusted EBITDA margin                                               7.0%              4.1%                     2.9%              2.0%                   0.9%



       Finance costs, net                                                  210.1               70.4                     139.7              139.7



       Net earnings(2)                                                     405.7              265.2                     140.5              (4.6)                  145.1



       Adjusted net earnings(2)                                            415.6              283.5                     132.1              (7.9)                  140.0



       Adjusted EPS (fully diluted)                                         1.53               1.04                      0.49             (0.03)                   0.52

    ---
(1) Reflects the impact of changing
              accounting standards from IAS
              17 to IFRS 16 in the first
              quarter of fiscal 2020.




     (2) Attributable to owners of the
              Company.

The Company transitioned to IFRS 16 using the modified retrospective approach with the cumulative impact of initially applying the new standard recognized in retained earnings on May 5, 2019. Prior period comparatives have not been restated. For a more complete description of the impact of IFRS 16 on Empire, please refer to Empire's Management's Discussion & Analysis ("MD&A") for the third quarter ended February 1, 2020.

Sales

Sales for the quarter ended February 1, 2020 increased by 2.4% driven by the consolidation of Farm Boy results, the expansion of FreshCo in Western Canada, internal food inflation and higher fuel prices. Internal food inflation was 2.2% (2019 - 1.8%) which reflects the price inflation of the Company's actual mix of product prices. These increases were partially offset by temporary store closures in Western Canada pending their conversion to FreshCo and promotional activity.

Gross Profit

Gross profit for the third quarter increased by 3.0% primarily as a result of category reset benefits and the inclusion of Farm Boy results. These increases were partially offset by temporary store closures in Western Canada pending their conversion to FreshCo.

Gross margin for the quarter increased to 24.4% from 24.2% last year. The increase was primarily a result of category reset benefits and positive margin rate contributions from the inclusion of Farm Boy results, largely offset by the effect of sales mix between banners, promotional activity and fuel margins.

Operating Income

For the quarter ended February 1, 2020, operating income increased mainly as a result of lower selling and administrative expenses, and improved earnings from the Food retailing segment due to higher sales and margins. Selling and administrative expenses decreased primarily as a result of the implementation of IFRS 16, the cost of voluntary buyouts of British Columbia ("B.C.") Safeway employees in the prior year, and savings achieved from Project Sunrise, partially offset by the inclusion of Farm Boy results.

Operating income from the Investments and other operations segment decreased for the quarter principally as a result of decreased equity earnings from Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust ("Crombie REIT") due to a prior year gain on disposal of a retail property.

13 Weeks Ended
     39 Weeks Ended




       ($ in millions)                                            Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019            Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019

    ---


       Operating income                          $

                235.0                         $
          110.0 $

              787.5          $
        458.1

    ---


       Adjustments:



       Intangible amortization associated with



       the Canada Safeway acquisition                                      4.5                                   6.1                13.7                 18.5



       Business acquisition costs                                                                               3.7                                     6.7

    ---

                                                                            4.5                                   9.8                13.7                 25.2




       Adjusted operating income                 $

                239.5                         $
          119.8 $

              801.2          $
        483.3

    ===

EBITDA

13 Weeks Ended
      39 Weeks Ended




       ($ in millions)                                       Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019            Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019

    ---


       EBITDA                                      $

                426.9        $
          214.6 $

            1,364.6          $
        769.4

    ---


       Adjustment:



       Business acquisition costs                                                         3.7                                     6.7

    ---

                                                                                           3.7                                     6.7




       Adjusted EBITDA                             $

                426.9        $
          218.3 $

            1,364.6          $
        776.1

    ===

For the quarter ended February 1, 2020, EBITDA increased to $426.9 million from $214.6 million in the prior year mainly as a result of the same factors affecting operating income. Excluding the impact of IFRS 16, EBITDA would have been $299.3 million, an increase of $84.7 million. EBITDA margin was 6.7%. Excluding the impact of the implementation of IFRS 16, adjusted EBITDA margin increased by 1.2% over the prior year. Excluding the effect of store closure, conversion and labour buyout costs in the prior year, adjusted EBITDA margin increased by 0.5%.

Income Taxes

The effective income tax rate for the third quarter ended February 1, 2020 was 27.4% compared to 22.1% last year. The effective rate in the current quarter is in line with the statutory rate as the effect of higher capital gains on property dispositions during the quarter was offset by differing tax rates of various entities. The effective rate in the prior year was lower than the statutory rate due to higher capital gains on property dispositions and a decrease in tax liabilities related to previously unrecognized tax benefits.

Net Earnings

13 Weeks Ended
       39 Weeks Ended




       ($ in millions, except per share amounts)                             Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019              Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019

    ---


       Net earnings(1)                                            $

                120.5         $
          65.8 $

               405.7          $
        265.2

    ---


       EPS (fully diluted)                                         $

                0.45         $
          0.24  $

               1.49           $
        0.97

    ---


       Adjustments (net of income taxes):



       Intangible amortization associated with



       the Canada Safeway acquisition                                                 3.2                  4.4                   9.9                 13.4



       Business acquisition costs                                                                         2.7                                       4.9

    ---

                                                                                       3.2                  7.1                   9.9                 18.3




       Adjusted net earnings(1)                                   $

                123.7         $
          72.9 $

               415.6          $
        283.5

    ===


       Adjusted EPS (fully diluted)                                $

                0.46         $
          0.27  $

               1.53           $
        1.04

    ===


       Diluted weighted average number of



       shares outstanding (in millions)                                             270.6                272.5                 272.0                272.3

    ===
(1)

     Attributable to owners of the Company.

Free Cash Flow

13 Weeks Ended
        39 Weeks Ended




       ($ in millions)                                                                                      Feb. 1, 2020
           Feb. 2, 2019         Feb. 1, 2020
          Feb. 2, 2019

    ---


       Cash flows from operating activities                                                     $

                480.5      $
             241.7  $

            1,201.8      $
              511.8



       Add:
              proceeds on disposal of property, equipment and



              investment property                                                                    85.5                  24.0                 166.3                   60.8



       Less:
              payments of lease liabilities, net of payments



              received for finance subleases                                                      (133.8)                                   (395.6)



       Less:
              acquisitions of property, equipment, investment



              property and intangibles                                                            (149.1)               (86.5)              (436.5)               (207.5)

                                                                                                                                                                                     ---


       Free cash flow(1)                                                                     $

                283.1      $
             179.2    $

            536.0      $
              365.1

    ===
(1) Amounts have been restated
              to reflect the revised free
              cash flow definition. See
              "Non-GAAP Financial
              Measures & Financial
              Metrics" section of this
              News Release.

Free cash flow increased for the quarter ended February 1, 2020 due to increased cash earnings and an increase in proceeds on disposal of assets, partially offset by increased capital investments.

FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE BY SEGMENT

Food Retailing

13 Weeks Ended
     $
         39 Weeks Ended
             $




       ($ in millions)                                 Feb. 1, 2020
       Feb. 2, 2019
         Change            Feb. 1, 2020
     Feb. 2, 2019
      Change

    ---


       Sales                                      $

          6,395.2            $
              6,247.3   $
             147.9 $

            19,575.8        $
          18,921.6   $
          654.2



       Gross profit                                         1,557.7                        1,511.7               46.0              4,813.8                 4,506.1           307.7



       Operating income                                       217.3                           83.4              133.9                723.5                   397.8           325.7



       Adjusted operating income                              221.8                           93.2              128.6                737.2                   423.0           314.2



       EBITDA                                                 409.1                          188.1              221.0              1,300.4                   708.9           591.5



       Adjusted EBITDA                                        409.1                          191.8              217.3              1,300.4                   715.6           584.8



       Adjusted net earnings(1)                               111.5                           53.9               57.6                368.3                   241.8           126.5

    ---
(1)

     Attributable to owners of the Company.

Investments and Other Operations

13 Weeks Ended
     $
     39 Weeks Ended
          $




       ($ in millions)                                            Feb. 1, 2020
        Feb. 2, 2019
          Change        Feb. 1, 2020
      Feb. 2, 2019
        Change

    ---


       Crombie REIT                                         $

              6.9       $
              15.4                    $
          (8.5) $

               44.4   $
              40.7   $
            3.7



       Genstar                                                            10.5                   12.9                            (2.4)                17.8               21.9           (4.1)



       Other operations, net of corporate



       expenses                                                            0.3                  (1.7)                             2.0                  1.8              (2.3)            4.1

    ---

                                                            $

              17.7       $
              26.6                    $
          (8.9) $

               64.0   $
              60.3   $
            3.7

For the quarter ended February 1, 2020, income from Investments and other operations decreased principally as a result of decreased equity earnings from Crombie REIT due to a prior year gain on disposal of a retail property.

CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL CONDITION

Feb. 1, 2020



       ($ in millions, except per share and ratio calculations) Feb. 1, 2020(1)             Impact of IFRS 16 May 4, 2019      Feb. 2, 2019

    ---


       Shareholders' equity, net of non-controlling interest                     $

                3,771.1             $
             (427.4)     $
         4,003.3      $
         3,862.1



       Book value per common share(2)                                              $

                13.98              $
             (1.51)       $
         14.72        $
         14.20



       Long-term debt, including current portion                                 $

                1,685.5              $
             (29.1)     $
         2,020.9      $
         2,025.6



       Long-term lease liabilities, including current portion                    $

                5,184.0             $
             5,184.0
     $
     $



       Net funded debt to net total capital(2)                                                          62.7%                         40.8%              26.8%              29.3%



       Funded debt to adjusted EBITDA(2)(3)                                                              4.1x
             2.8x
         1.9x
         2.0x



       Adjusted EBITDA to interest expense(2)(4)                                                         7.2x
             (7.1)x
         12.4x
         11.9x



       Trailing four-quarter adjusted EBITDA                                     $

                1,664.7               $
             389.8      $
         1,076.2      $
         1,016.5



       Trailing four-quarter interest expense                                      $

                231.8               $
             142.7         $
         86.5         $
         85.4



       Current assets to current liabilities(5)                                                          0.8x
         1.0x
         1.0x



       Total assets(5)                                                          $

                13,972.9                                    $
         9,602.4      $
         9,326.3



       Total non-current financial liabilities(5)                                $

                6,554.7                                    $
         2,838.1      $
         2,902.6

    ---
(1) Key Financial Condition Measures are
              impacted by the implementation of
              IFRS 16.




     (2) See "Non-GAAP Financial Measures &
              Financial Metrics" section of this
              News Release.




     (3) Calculation uses trailing four-
              quarter adjusted EBITDA.




     (4) Calculation uses trailing four-
              quarter adjusted EBITDA and interest
              expense.




     (5) See "Accounting Standards and
              Policies" section of Empire's MD&A
              for the impact of IFRS 16 on the
              assets and liabilities metrics for
              the quarter ended February 1, 2020.

Sobeys' credit ratings remained unchanged from the prior quarter.

Rating Agency

     Credit Rating (Issuer rating)

         Trend/Outlook

    ---


       Dominion Bond Rating Service
              BBB (low)
            Stable



       Standard & Poor's
              BB+
            Positive

    ---

OTHER ITEMS

Discount Expansion to Western Canada

In December 2017, Sobeys announced plans to expand its discount format to Western Canada and expects to convert up to 25% of its 255 Safeway and Sobeys full service format stores in Western Canada to its FreshCo discount format. The Company continues to be on track to open approximately 65 locations within the initial five-year time frame.

22 FreshCo locations have been confirmed:

--  13 stores are open and operating as at March 11, 2020:
  o 11 in B.C.
  o 2 in Manitoba
    --  4 additional stores are expected to open in fiscal 2020 in B.C.
    --  5 stores are expected to open in fiscal 2021:
  o 4 in Saskatchewan
  o 1 in B.C.

Of the 13 stores operating as at March 11, 2020, two were opened subsequent to the end of the quarter.

As at March 11, 2020, five full service format stores in Western Canada remain closed pending conversion to the FreshCo discount banner, and four will close for conversion in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020.

All FreshCo stores in Western Canada and Ontario are branded with the new, evolved FreshCo 2.0 look which offers customers a strong discount and value experience.

Store Closure, Conversion and Labour Buyout Costs

In the first quarter of fiscal 2020, the Company expensed $21.0 million (2019 - $ nil) in closure and conversion costs. These costs relate to the conversion of ten Safeway locations to FreshCo stores and conversion of two Company locations to Farm Boy stores. Of the $21.0 million, $3.7 million was reversed in the second quarter.

In the prior fiscal year, provisions totalling $45.0 million were recognized in the third quarter related to store conversions and labour buyouts. Of the $45.0 million, $6.1 million was reversed in the second quarter of the current year.

The reversals in the second quarter were attributable to revised estimates relating to store conversions. As a result, the net year-to-date expense was $11.2 million (2019 - $45.0 million).

E-commerce

On May 9, 2019, the Company announced Voilà by Sobeys and Voilà par IGA, the name and brand for its online grocery home delivery service for the Greater Toronto Area ("GTA"), Ottawa and cities in the province of Quebec, respectively. The Company is developing its first Customer Fulfillment Centre ("CFC") in the GTA with delivery to customers scheduled to test and soft launch in the spring of 2020.

Empire also announced plans to launch Voilà par IGA and its second CFC in Montreal to open in 2021. The Company will lease the location from Crombie REIT and the CFC will be built to Empire's specifications.

SUBSEQUENT EVENT

On February 11, 2020, Crombie REIT announced it had closed a bought-deal public offering of units at a price of $16.00 per unit for aggregate proceeds of $100.0 million. Concurrent with the public offering, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Company purchased, on a private placement basis, $41.5 million of Class B limited partnership units to maintain its 41.5% interest in Crombie REIT.

Dividend Declaration

The Board of Directors declared a quarterly dividend of $0.12 per share on both the Non-Voting Class A shares and the Class B common shares that will be payable on April 30, 2020 to shareholders of record on April 15, 2020. These dividends are eligible dividends as defined for the purposes of the Income Tax Act (Canada) and applicable provincial legislation.

FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION

This document contains forward-looking statements which are presented for the purpose of assisting the reader to contextualize the Company's financial position and understand management's expectations regarding the Company's strategic priorities, objectives and plans. These forward-looking statements may not be appropriate for other purposes. Forward-looking statements are identified by words or phrases such as "anticipates", "expects", "believes", "estimates", "intends", "could", "may", "plans", "predicts", "projects", "will", "would", "foresees" and other similar expressions or the negative of these terms.

These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, the following items:

--  The Company's expectations regarding the impact of Project
        Sunrise, including expected cost savings and efficiencies, the
        expected timing of the realization of overall and fiscal 2020
        in-year incremental benefits, and the expected $50 million
        overachievement of the initial $500 million target which could
        be impacted by several factors including the execution and
        completion of category resets, time required by the Company to
        complete the project as well as the factors identified under
        the heading "Risk Management" in the fiscal 2019 annual MD&A;

    --  The FreshCo expansion in Western Canada, including the
        Company's expectations regarding future operating results and
        profitability, the amount and timing of expenses, and the
        number, location, feasibility and timing of construction and
        conversions, all of which may be impacted by construction
        schedules and permits, the economic environment and labour
        relations; and

    --  The Company's expectations regarding the implementation of its
        online grocery home delivery service which may be impacted by
        the timing of launching the business, the customer response to
        the service and the performance of its business partner, Ocado
        Group plc.

By its nature, forward-looking information requires the Company to make assumptions and is subject to inherent risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause actual results to differ materially from forward-looking statements made. For more information on risks, uncertainties and assumptions that may impact the Company's forward-looking statements, please refer to the Company's materials filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities, including the "Risk Management" section of the fiscal 2019 annual MD&A. For additional disclosure on the recent outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19, please refer to the "Risk Management" section of Empire's MD&A for the quarter ended February 1, 2020.

Although the Company believes the predictions, forecasts, expectations or conclusions reflected in the forward-looking information are reasonable, it can provide no assurance that such matters will prove correct. Readers are urged to consider the risks, uncertainties and assumptions carefully in evaluating the forward-looking information and are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking information. The forward-looking information in this document reflects the Company's current expectations and is subject to change. The Company does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements that may be made by or on behalf of the Company other than as required by applicable securities laws.

NON-GAAP FINANCIAL MEASURES & FINANCIAL METRICS

There are measures and metrics included in this news release that do not have a standardized meaning under generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP") and therefore may not be comparable to similarly titled measures and metrics presented by other publicly traded companies. The Company includes these measures and metrics because it believes certain investors use these measures and metrics as a means of assessing financial performance.

Empire's definition of the non-GAAP terms are as follows:

--  Same-store sales are sales from stores in the same location in
        both reporting periods.

    --  Adjusted net earnings is net earnings, attributable to owners
        of the Company, excluding certain items to better analyze
        trends in performance and financial results. These adjustments
        result in a more comparable economic representation of the
        underlying business.

    --  Adjusted EPS (fully diluted) is calculated as adjusted net
        earnings divided by diluted weighted average number of shares
        outstanding.

    --  Gross profit is calculated as sales less cost of sales.

    --  Gross margin is gross profit divided by sales.

    --  Adjusted operating income is operating income excluding certain
        items to better analyze trends in performance. These
        adjustments result in a more comparable economic
        representation.

    --  Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization
        ("EBITDA") is calculated as net earnings before finance costs
        (net of finance income), income tax expense, and depreciation
        and amortization of intangibles.

    --  EBITDA margin is EBITDA divided by sales.

    --  Adjusted EBITDA is EBITDA excluding certain items to better
        analyze trends in performance. These adjustments result in a
        more comparable economic representation of the underlying
        business.

    --  Adjusted EBITDA margin is adjusted EBITDA divided by sales.

    --  Free cash flow is calculated as cash flows from operating
        activities, plus proceeds on disposal of property, equipment
        and investment property, less acquisitions of property,
        equipment, investment property and intangibles. The definition
        of free cash flow was changed in the first quarter of fiscal
        2020 to include the impact of net lease cash payments made.

    --  Book value per common share is shareholders' equity, net of
        non-controlling interest, divided by total common shares
        outstanding.

    --  Funded debt is all interest-bearing debt, which includes bank
        loans, bankers' acceptances, long-term debt and long-term lease
        liabilities.

    --  Net funded debt is calculated as funded debt less cash and cash
        equivalents.

    --  Net total capital is calculated as funded debt plus
        shareholders' equity, net of non-controlling interest, less
        cash and cash equivalents.

    --  Net funded debt to net total capital ratio is net funded debt
        divided by net total capital.

    --  Funded debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio is funded debt divided by
        trailing four-quarter adjusted EBITDA.

    --  Interest expense is calculated as interest expense on financial
        liabilities measured at amortized cost and interest expense on
        lease liabilities.

    --  Adjusted EBITDA to interest expense ratio is trailing
        four-quarter adjusted EBITDA divided by trailing four-quarter
        interest expense.

For a more complete description of Empire's non-GAAP measures and metrics, please see Empire's MD&A for the third quarter ended February 1, 2020.

CONFERENCE CALL INFORMATION

The Company will hold an analyst call on Thursday, March 12, 2020 beginning at 12:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time) during which senior management will discuss the Company's financial results for the third quarter of fiscal 2020. To join this conference call, dial (888) 390-0546 outside the Toronto area or (416) 764-8688 from within the Toronto area. To secure a line, please call 10 minutes prior to the conference call; you will be placed on hold until the conference call begins. The media and investing public may access this conference call via a listen mode only. You may also listen to a live audiocast of the conference call by visiting the "Quick Links" section of the Company's website located at www.empireco.ca.

Replay will be available by dialing (888) 390-0541 and entering access code 539900 until midnight March 26, 2020, or on the Company's website for 90 days following the conference call.

ABOUT EMPIRE

Empire Company Limited (TSX:EMP-A.TO) is a Canadian company headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Empire's key businesses are food retailing and related real estate. With approximately $25.8 billion in annualized sales and $14.0 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 123,000 people.

Additional financial information relating to Empire, including the Company's Annual Information Form, can be found on the Company's website at www.empireco.ca or on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

SOURCE Empire Company Limited

View original content: http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/March2020/12/c2698.html

SOURCE: Empire Company Limited

Media Contact: Jacquelin Weatherbee, Vice President, Communications & Corporate
Affairs, Sobeys Inc., (416) 200-0372; Investor Contact: Katie Brine, CPA, CA, CBV,
CPIR, Director Finance, Investor Relations, Sobeys Inc., (905) 238-7124 ext. 2092

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