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United Natural Foods profit up 20%

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PROVIDENCE – United Natural Foods, distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods and nonfood products in the United States and Canada, reported a profit of $23.4 million in it fiscal third quarter, an increase of 19.9 percent from a year earlier.

Earnings per diluted share for the three months ended April 30 were 48 cents, compared with a 45 cent EPS a year earlier.

Sales were $1.2 billion, up 22.1 percent from third quarter 2010 when sales totaled $985.7 million, bolstered by recent acquisitions.

Analysts had estimated an EPS of 48 cents on sales of $1.17 billion, according to Yahoo!Finance.

“During the quarter we continued to see strong demand for UNFI’s products across our customer channels and delivered strong earnings growth despite tough comparisons versus the prior year and increasing fuel costs,” said Steven Spinner, president and CEO.

Gross margin improved 33 basis points to 18.2 percent in the third quarter from 17.8 percent in the second quarter, although it fell 36 basis points when compared with the year-earlier period. The company attributed the decline to a “continued shift in the company’s customer mix.”

Operating expenses decreased to 14.9 percent for third quarter, it said.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2011, sales totaled $3.37 bullion, up 21.8 percent from the same period a year earlier, with earnings per diluted share totaling $1.25.

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