Safeway's profit climbs on tax benefit

NEW YORK - Safeway Inc. reported a higher profit for the first quarter as the grocery store operator benefited from lower tax charges.

The company, which operates more than 1,600 locations under names including Safeway and Vons, stood by its forecast for the year.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of health, rose 1.5 percent.

For the quarter, Safeway earned $118.9 million, or 49 cents per share. That's up from $72.9 million, or 27 cents per share, a year ago. Tax benefits contributed 14 cents per share to the latest quarter.

Net sales dipped to $9.99 billion, from $10 billion a year ago, as the company sold its Genuardi's stores.

Analysts on average expect a profit of 35 cents per share on revenue of $10.15 billion.