Roundup: Grocery Stores, Ecologic and Cogent

From staff and wire reports

*An annual survey of the region's top grocery chains shows Giant Food's market share continuing to erode, though it remained the region's leading supermarket. According to trade publication Food World, Giant's market share dipped 2 percentage points to 35 percent in the year ending March 31. Sales at the chain's 129 stores totaled $3.3 billion, down from $3.4 billion at 133 stores last year.

Safeway ranked second with 109 stores and $2.6 billion in annual sales. Its market share increased slightly from 27.7 percent to 27.8 percent. Third-place Shoppers Food Warehouse saw market share dip from 14.6 percent to 14.4 percent, though sales grew from $1.3 billion to $1.4 billion.

Harris Teeter, ranked fifth in the market, increased its presence with seven new stores, up from 11 last year. That helped boost its market share from 2.6 percent to 4.3 percent, and sales jumped from $238 million to $410 million.

*Ecologic Leasing Solutions of Great Falls said it has bought Captara of San Francisco, its main rival. Both companies manage leasing processes through the Web. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Ecological said it gained control of Captara overa year ago but didn't fully integrate the company or announce the deal until litigation against Captara was settled. Integration is expected to be completed in the third quarter.

*Cogent Communications Group's gross margin will expand within the next five years because the high-speed Internet service provider is using only about a fifth of its capacity, CEO David Schaeffer said.

The gross margin will rise to 70 percent "within five years" from an expected 60 percent this year, Schaeffer said in an interview today. The margin on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization may rise to about 50 percent in five years from "the low 30s" this year, he added.

"We're substantially underutilized," said Schaeffer, estimating Cogent, based in the District, used 21 percent of its capacity to move data to customers as of March 31. As new customers are added, "there's no direct cost of goods sold," helping to boost margins, he said.

By Terri Rupar  |  June 26, 2008; 4:22 PM ET  | Category:  Roundup
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