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    7-Eleven Earnings Jump

    Categories that sold well included prepaid cards, fresh food, beverages, beer and cigarettes.

    DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc. said profit rose sharply in the third quarter on stronger demand for new products and gasoline. On a net basis, however, its income fell to $25.9 million from $29.5 million a year ago.

    Core earnings, which exclude non-operating items, grew 35.6 percent to $39.2 million, or 33 cents per share, from $28.9 million, or 25 cents, a year ago. Total merchandise revenue rose 6.2 percent to $2.1 billion, the company said.

    U.S. same-store merchandise sales -- or sales at stores open at least a year, a key retail indicator -- were up 3.7 percent for the quarter, compared to a 3.2-percent rise in last year's quarter.

    Categories that sold well included prepaid cards, fresh food, beverages, beer and cigarettes, 7-Eleven said.

    Total gasoline revenue, meanwhile, rose 19.8 percent to $903.5 million from $754.3 million in the same quarter a year ago. The increase was due mainly to a 20-cent hike in gasoline prices year over year, as well as a 3.4-percent rise in per-store gallon sales, 7-Eleven said. The average retail price of gasoline was $1.64 in the recent third quarter, compared with $1.44 in the third quarter of 2002, the company said.

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