Giant won't rule out expansion to Pa.

September 10, 1993|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- After an upbeat annual meeting that was devoid of controversy or surprises, Giant Food Inc. President Peter Manos spoke a word yesterday that could have immense significance for the grocery chain: Philadelphia.

It was only the vaguest, most tentative reference in response to a question about future expansion possibilities.

"We're not going to rule out Pennsylvania -- southeastern Pennsylvania," Mr. Manos said. Yes, he said, that could include Philadelphia.

Mr. Manos' words fell light years short of an announcement, or even a strong hint, but his words stood in sharp contrast to Giant's attitude a year ago. After last year's annual meeting, at which Mr. Manos was designated heir-apparent to Giant Chief Executive Israel Cohen, Mr. Cohen explicitly ruled out any move into the Philadelphia area.

If Giant were to venture into the competitive Philadelphia scene, it would represent a bold move by the Landover-based chain, whose most ambitious move in recent years was its foray into Delaware. Giant is the dominant grocery chain in the Baltimore-Washington area, and it has focused almost entirely on its core area in recent years.

Apart from this brief glimpse of tea leaves offered by Mr. Manos, yesterday's meeting offered little that was new. Shareholders and executives basked in the glow of three consecutive quarters of increased earnings -- a sharp contrast with last year's gloomy proceedings.

Second-quarter earnings, released last month, were $14.6 million, or 24 cents a share, compared with $12 million, or 20 cents a share, last year.

Those numbers appeared to put the company in an expansionist mood.

Giant's senior vice president of finance, David B. Sykes, outlined a $120 million plan for capital expenditure in fiscal 1994. He said the company would open four new stores over the next 12 months and add three to five per year in the future.

Giant also said yesterday that it appointed Constance M. Unseld, a member of the University of Maryland Board of Regents and founder of Unselds' School in Baltimore, to its board of directors.

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