Hudson's Bay trims Q1 loss

The Bay has cut its Q1 loss.

Cost controls helped retailer Hudson's Bay Co. (TSX:HBC)to cut its first-quarter loss, even though sales fell slightly.

The Bay said its first quarter is typically the weakest, but based on the results released Thursday, the company expects it will make profit (excluding usual items) of $1.15 to $1.25 a share for the full year. That's a gain of between 24 per cent and 34 per cent over 2003 "normalized" profit (excluding usual items).

"We have a positive outlook for the remainder of 2004," George Heller, president and CEO, said in a statement.

The loss for the three months ended April 30 was $19 million (32 cents a share), compared with $34 million (53 cents a share a year earlier), the operator of the Bay and Zellers stores said Thursday.

The 2003 loss includes $7.3 million (6 cents a share) because of inventory write-downs and $3.1 million (3 cents a share) for a sales tax assessment.

After removing those items, the "normalized" loss was $18.8 million in the most recent quarter, compared with $27.7 million a year earlier.

Revenue fell $6 million to $1.529 billion.

The company closed five Zellers stores and one Bay store in the quarter, cutting its total to 555 stores. It had 558 in last year's first quarter.

Zellers plans to close six more stores.

On the TSX, shares of HBC lost 31 cents to finish at $13.37.