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    The Pantry's Income, Sales Jump

    Company also announces plans to shut down 35 stores.

    SANFORD, N.C. -- The Pantry Inc., the largest southeastern convenience store chain with more than 1,200 units, reported net income of $1.4 million in the fourth quarter ending Sept. 26, up from $500,000 for the same period last year.

    At the same time, the company said it planned to shut down 35 underperforming stores and would likely take up to a $5-million charge in the first quarter for removal of underground storage tanks.

    For fiscal 2003, the company said it expects to generate $115 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The figure would represent a $7-million increase from the year just ended. The optimistic projection is premised on improved gasoline margins.

    As for the recently completed quarter, the company attributed a 1.4-percent sales increase -- from $665.1 million to $674.5 million -- to an improved merchandise mix.

    The Pantry owns and operates 1,327 convenience stores in 10 Southeastern states under brands such as Handy Way, Lil' Champ, Quick Stop, Zip Mart, Fast Lane, Kangaroo, Depot and Big K.

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