The Metro grocery business had a $139.8 million profit in the quarter ended Dec. 19, up 24.3 per cent from a year earlier.

Metro Inc.says same-store sales at locations open for at least a year were up 2.8 per cent and overall sales for its fiscal first quarter were up 4.3 per cent, rising to $2.96 billion.

The grocery chain with 600 outlets said inflation pushed the cost of groceries about 2.8 per cent higher in the quarter. Food prices, especially the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, have been pushed higher by the low Canadian dollar.

The Montreal-based company attributed the improvement to improved merchandising strategies at its various banners.

It also got a boost from its investment in Alimentation Couche-Tard, the Montreal-based company that operates convenience stores and gas bars under the Circle K, Mac's and Couche-Tard banners.

Metro's share of Couche-Tard's earnings was $30.6 million, up from $17.9 million a year earlier.

The company says its profit for its first quarter of fiscal 2016 amounted to 56 cents per share, both in net income and adjusted net income.

Its dividend will rise to 14 cents per common share for the March payment, up from 11.7 per share paid Nov. 25 and up from .

A year earlier, Metro's fiscal first-quarter net income was $112.5 million or 43 cents per share while adjusted net income was $116.8 million or 45 cents per share.