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Albertsons, the nation’s second-largest supermarket chain, said yesterday that its first-quarter earnings nearly tripled.




The Boise-based company’s profit rose to $100 million, or 27 cents a share, from $36 million, or 10 cents a share, a year ago. Total sales grew 16 percent to $9.99 billion from $8.61 billion last year due to the acquisition of Shaw’s Supermarkets’ 200 stores in New England, progress in recovering from a labor dispute in Southern California, new-store expansion and several new merchandising programs.




“They’ve done a great job on the cost side of things, but what needs to improve from here is sales, sales, sales,” said Jason Whitmer, a food-retail analyst with FTN Midwest Research in Cleveland.



Agriculture



Mexico lifts tariff on apples, for now




Mexico has temporarily lifted a 46.6 percent tariff on Northwest Red and Golden Delicious apples while it reopens an investigation into dumping. The Mexican government lifted the duty late last month.




Since 1997, Mexico has accused U.S. producers of dumping, or unfairly selling apples in Mexico at levels below the sales price for apples in the U.S. market. Mexico has imposed the tariff since August 2002.




The Mexican government’s investigation of 84 companies represented by the Northwest Fruit Exporters — a nonprofit that manages apple- and cherry-export programs — is expected to last four to five months, during which time the tariff will not be imposed.





Agriculture





Fruit forecast: fewer cherries, more pears




Rainy weather and freezes have cut forecasts for Washington’s cherry crop by as much as a third, while the early forecast for the pear harvest in Washington and Oregon is up.




Cherry growers expect to harvest 8 million to 9 million 20-pound boxes, down from a forecast of about 12 million boxes about a month ago, according to Washington State Fruit Commission figures released Monday.




Meanwhile, a preliminary forecast by the Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, Ore., is for 18.4 million 44-pound boxes of pears this season, an 8 percent increase over the 17 million boxes last year.




Isilon Systems




Seattle firm opens Tokyo subsidiary




Seattle-based Isilon Systems said it opened a subsidiary in Tokyo in April. The subsidiary, Isilon Systems K.K., has five employees and is focusing on the demand for clustered storage systems in the Japanese and Korean markets. Isilon develops storage systems for digital content.




Boeing




China Cargo to buy two 747 freighters




China Eastern Airlines said its cargo unit agreed to buy two Boeing 747-400 freighter planes in an order valued at about $428 million at list prices.




China Cargo Airlines will take delivery of the planes starting next year, Shanghai-based China Eastern said in a statement to the city’s stock exchange yesterday.




Compiled from The Associated Press, Seattle Times business staff and Bloomberg News.