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    Losses Mount

    Uni-Mart latest chain to report fourth quarter loss.

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Following the trend set by Big Oil companies, Uni-Marts Inc. it lost $143,000 in the fourth quarter primarily on unstable gasoline prices.

    "Management's pricing strategies to maintain market share in our highly-competitive operating area, combined with the unsettling petroleum market affecting many petroleum retailers, resulted in low gasoline gross margin levels," said Henry Sahakian, Uni-Mart's chairman and chief executive. "Gasoline gross margins declined by three cents per gallon while gasoline margin dollars declined by 23.2 percent in the fourth quarter."

    The loss in the quarter that ended Sept. 30 was equivalent to 2 cents per share. By comparison, State College-based Uni-Marts earned $530,000, or 8 cents per share, in the same period of last year. Fourth-quarter revenue was $109.5 million, a 5.7 percent increase from $103.6 million in the same quarter of last year.

    Same-store sales increased 7.9 percent from last year, while the number of gallons of gas sold fell by 1.9 percent. "Increases in comparable store merchandise sales as well as higher retail cigarette prices contributed to improved revenues in the current reporting period," Sahakian said.

    For the fiscal year, Uni-Marts lost $1.3 million compared with net earnings of $451,000 in the previous fiscal year. Revenue fell 3 percent to $409.5 million from $422.3 million, the company said.

    Uni-Marts operates 299 convenience stores and Choice Cigarette Discount Outlets in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

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