STELLARTON, N.S. - Empire Co. Ltd., which owns the Sobeys and Safeway grocery chains, says it earned $188.5 million in its latest quarter.

The grocery retailer says its profit amounted to 70 cents per share for the quarter ended July 31.

The result compared with a profit of $191.9 million or 71 cents per share a year ago when the company benefited from a significant real estate transaction partly offset by a lump-sum payment related to collective bargaining in Alberta.

Excluding the two one-time items last year, Empire says its earnings per share in its latest quarter were up 4.5 per cent.

Sales in what was the company's first quarter totalled $7.6 billion, up from nearly $7.4 billion in the same quarter last year, boosted by the acquisition of Longo's and higher fuel sales due to increased fuel prices and consumption.

Same-store sales were down 0.5 per cent for the quarter, while same-store sales, excluding fuel, were down 2.2 per cent.