Nash Finch reports Q3 earnings of US$16.4M, a 15% increase from year-ago period; total company sales down 2.6% to US$1.47B

MINNEAPOLIS , November 10, 2011 (press release) – Nash Finch Company (NASDAQ: NAFC), one of the leading food distribution companies in the United States, today announced financial results for the sixteen weeks (third quarter) ended October 8, 2011.

Financial Results

Total company sales for the third quarter 2011 were $1.47 billion compared to $1.51 billion in the prior year quarter, a decrease of 2.6%. Excluding the impact of selling or closing eight retail stores, total company third quarter comparable sales decreased 1.6% relative to last year. Sales for the first forty weeks of 2011 were $3.67 billion compared to $3.85 billion in the prior year period, a decrease of 4.5%. Excluding the impact of the sales decrease of $53.2 million attributable to the previously announced transition of a portion of a food distribution buying group to another supplier during 2010 and the effect of selling or closing eight retail stores, total company year-to-date comparable sales decreased 2.5% relative to last year.

Consolidated EBITDA3, adjusted to exclude the impact of significant items totaling $3.3 million and $1.5 million in the third quarter 2011 and 2010, respectively, increased 1.4% to $45.9 million, or 3.1% of sales in 2011 as compared to $45.3 million, or 3.0% of sales in 2010. Including the impact of significant items, Consolidated EBITDA for the third quarter 2011 decreased by 2.7% to $42.6 million, or 2.9% of sales, as compared to $43.8 million, or 2.9% of sales, in the prior year quarter. For the first forty weeks of 2011, Consolidated EBITDA, adjusted to exclude the impact of significant items totaling $5.3 million and $3.3 million in 2011 and 2010, respectively, increased 3.2% to $111.1 million, or 3.0% of sales in 2011, compared to $107.6 million, or 2.8% of sales in 2010. Including the impact of significant items, Consolidated EBITDA for the third quarter year-to-date 2011 increased by 1.5% to $105.8 million, or 2.9% of sales, compared to $104.2 million, or 2.7% of sales, in the prior year period. Consolidated EBITDA is a non-GAAP financial measure that is reconciled to the most directly comparable GAAP financial results in the attached financial statements.

“The year-over-year increases in Consolidated EBITDA results and net earnings, adjusted to exclude significant items, for the third quarter and year-to-date periods were consistent with our expectations,” said Alec Covington, President and CEO of Nash Finch. “We continue to focus on operational improvements and initiatives aimed at growing sales as we and our customers weather this prolonged economic recovery. Despite the challenging times, we have maintained our solid balance sheet and continue to look for growth opportunities.”

Net earnings in the third quarter, adjusted to exclude the impact of significant items totaling $6.3 million or $0.48 per diluted share in 2011 and a benefit of $1.1 million or $0.09 per diluted share in the 2010 quarter, increased 15.0% to $16.4 million or $1.25 per diluted share in 2011, compared to $14.3 million or $1.09 per diluted share in 2010. Including the impact of significant items, our reported net earnings for the third quarter 2011 were $10.1 million or $0.77 per diluted share, as compared to net earnings of $15.3 million, or $1.18 per diluted share, in the prior year quarter. For the first forty weeks of 2011, net earnings, adjusted to exclude the impact of significant items totaling $10.5 million or $0.80 per diluted share in 2011 and a benefit of $0.2 million or $0.01 per diluted share in 2010, increased 12.5% to $38.1 million or $2.92 per diluted share in 2011, compared to $33.8 million or $2.56 per diluted share in 2010. Including the impact of significant items, our reported net earnings for the first forty weeks of 2011 were $27.6 million or $2.12 per diluted share, compared to net earnings of $34.0 million or $2.57 per diluted share, in the prior year period.

The military segment net sales increased 1.4% in the third quarter 2011 and 1.2% in the year-to-date 2011 period compared to the prior year. However, a larger portion of military sales during the current year have been on a consignment basis, which are not included in our reported net sales. The year-over-year increase in consignment sales was approximately $3.4 million during the quarter and $11.7 million in the year-to-date period. Including the impact of consignment sales, comparable military sales increased 1.9% in the third quarter 2011 and 1.8% in the year-to-date 2011 period compared to the prior year.

The military segment EBITDA increased by $3.9 million or 22.6% in the third quarter 2011 and by $4.6 million or 9.8% in the year-to-date 2011 period compared to the same periods last year. The increase in military EBITDA is primarily due to cost savings achieved from opening the Columbus, Georgia and Bloomington, Indiana distribution centers, cycling the Columbus start-up costs that were incurred the third quarter 2010 and from improvements in inventory management. The military EBITDA as a percentage of sales in the current quarter was 3.0% as compared to 2.5% in the third quarter last year and 2.9% as compared to 2.7% in the year-to-date periods of 2011 and 2010.

“Our Bloomington, Indiana military distribution center has exceeded expectations in the third quarter due to our ability to attract new business and our associates’ focus on operational execution. The expansion of our military footprint is helping us achieve cost savings and improved productivity. We look forward to bringing our Oklahoma City facility on line, which will further improve the efficiency of our military network. The Oklahoma City facility is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2012,” said Covington.

The combined food distribution and retail segment sales decrease in the third quarter and year-to-date periods of 2011 compared to the 2010 periods was 6.1% and 9.4%, respectively. The decrease in sales was negatively impacted by the previously announced transition of a portion of a customer buying group to another supplier during the second quarter 2010. After adjusting to exclude this sales impact of $0.7 million in the third quarter and $53.2 million year-to-date in addition to the impact of selling four and closing four retail stores, sales declined 4.3% for the third quarter and 5.8% year-to-date. Retail same store sales declined 0.5% as compared to the prior year quarter and 2.2% in the year-to-date comparison.

The food distribution and retail segment EBITDA decreased by $5.1 million or 19.4% in the third quarter 2011 and by $3.0 million or 5.2% in the year-to-date 2011 period compared to the same periods last year. The decrease in third quarter EBITDA was primarily due to the previously mentioned significant items that included $2.0 million of unusual professional fees and $0.9 million of restructuring costs related to the centralization of overhead functions. The food distribution and retail segment EBITDA, adjusted to exclude the impact of significant items as a percentage of sales was 3.2% in the third quarter 2011 as compared to 3.3% in the prior year quarter. Food distribution and retail segment EBITDA, adjusted to exclude the impact of significant items as a percentage of sales was 3.1% in the year-to-date 2011 period as compared to 2.8% in the same period last year.

“We were pleased to see the improvement in comparable sales for food distribution and retail in the third quarter and we expect comparable sales to continue to improve over the near term. We continue to partner with our customers on ways to improve their competitive position and to drive sales as we maintain our focus on improving productivity,” said Covington.

Financial Target Progress

Improvements on our key financial targets have been achieved to date since the targets were announced as part of the Company’s strategic plan in November 2006. In particular, Consolidated EBITDA margin improved from 2.2% to 2.9% of sales and the debt leverage ratio has improved from 3.11x to 2.23x from Fiscal 2006 to the third quarter 2011. The ratio of free cash flow to net assets excluding the impact of strategic projects has increased from 8.7% in Fiscal 2006 to 13.1% in the third quarter 2011.

Liquidity

Total debt at the end of the third quarter of 2011 decreased by $9.6 million to $309.8 million since the end of the second quarter 2011. The Company continues to focus on effectively managing its balance sheet and is currently in compliance with all of its debt covenants. The debt leverage ratio as of the end of the third quarter 2011 was 2.23x. Availability on the Company’s revolving credit facility at the end of the quarter was $180.1 million. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the Company anticipates refinancing the Asset Based Lending agreement which will provide long term financial stability.

A conference call to review the third quarter 2011 results is scheduled for 9 a.m. CT (10 a.m. ET) on November 10, 2011. Interested participants can listen to the conference call over the Internet by logging onto the “Investor Relations” portion of Nash Finch's website at http://www.nashfinch.com. A replay of the webcast will be available and the transcript of the call will be archived on the “Investor Relations” portion of Nash Finch's website under the heading “Audio Archives.” A copy of this press release and the other financial and statistical information about the periods to be discussed in the conference call will be available at the time of the call on the “Investor Relations” portion of the Nash Finch website under the caption “Press Releases.”

Nash Finch Company is a Fortune 500 company and one of the leading food distribution companies in the United States. Nash Finch’s core business, food distribution, serves independent retailers and military commissaries in 36 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Azores and Egypt. The Company also owns and operates a base of retail stores, primarily supermarkets under the Econofoods®, Family Thrift Center®, AVANZA®, Family Fresh Markets®, Savers Choice® and Sun Mart® trade names. Further information is available on the Company's website at www.nashfinch.com.

This release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Such statements relate to trends and events that may affect our future financial position and operating results. Any statement contained in this release that is not statements of historical fact may be deemed forward-looking statements. For example, words such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “likely,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “estimate,” “believe,” “intend, ” “potential” or “plan,” or comparable terminology, are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such statements are based upon current expectations, estimates and assumptions, and entail various risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in such forward-looking statements. Important factors known to us that could cause or contribute to material differences include, but are not limited to, the following:

* the effect of competition on our food distribution, military and retail businesses;
* general sensitivity to economic conditions, including the uncertainty related to the current state of the economy in the U.S. and worldwide economic slowdown; disruptions to the credit and financial markets in the U.S. and worldwide; changes in market interest rates; continued volatility in energy prices and food commodities;
* macroeconomic and geopolitical events affecting commerce generally;
* changes in consumer buying and spending patterns;
* our ability to identify and execute plans to expand our food distribution, military and retail operations;
* possible changes in the military commissary system, including those stemming from the redeployment of forces, congressional action and funding levels;
* our ability to identify and execute plans to improve the competitive position of our retail operations;
* the success or failure of strategic plans, new business ventures or initiatives;
* our ability to successfully integrate and manage current or future businesses we acquire, including the ability to manage credit risks and retain the customers of those operations;
* changes in credit risk from financial accommodations extended to new or existing customers;
* significant changes in the nature of vendor promotional programs and the allocation of funds among the programs;
* limitations on financial and operating flexibility due to debt levels and debt instrument covenants;
* legal, governmental, legislative or administrative proceedings, disputes, or actions that result in adverse outcomes;
* our ability to identify and remediate any material weakness in our internal controls that could affect our ability to detect and prevent fraud, expose us to litigation, or prepare financial statements and reports in a timely manner;
* changes in accounting standards;
* technology failures that may have a material adverse effect on our business;
* severe weather and natural disasters that may impact our supply chain;
* unionization of a significant portion of our workforce;
* costs related to a multi-employer pension plan which has liabilities in excess of plan assets;
* changes in health care, pension and wage costs and labor relations issues;
* product liability claims, including claims concerning food and prepared food products;
* threats or potential threats to security;
* unanticipated problems with product procurement; and
* maintaining our reputation and corporate image.

A more detailed discussion of many of these factors, as well as other factors that could affect the Company’s results, is contained in the Company’s periodic reports filed with the SEC. You should carefully consider each of these factors and all of the other information in this release. We believe that all forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions when made. However, we caution that it is impossible to predict actual results or outcomes and that accordingly you should not place undue reliance on these statements. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date when made and we undertake no obligation to revise or update these statements in light of subsequent events or developments. Actual results and outcomes may differ materially from anticipated results or outcomes discussed in forward-looking statements. You are advised, however, to consult any future disclosures we make on related subjects in future reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).


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