BRAMPTON, ONT. -- Loblaw Companies Ltd. reported its fourth-quarter profit rose compared with a year earlier, but the parent company of Loblaws and Shoppers Drug Mart fell short of analysts' expectations.

The retailer said Thursday it earned a profit attributable to common shareholders of $254 million or 70 cents per diluted share for the 12-week period ended Dec. 28.

That compared with a profit attributable to common shareholders of $221 million or 59 cents per diluted share in the same period a year earlier.

Revenue totalled $11.59 billion, up from nearly $11.22 billion.

"Our sales trajectory continued to improve through the fourth quarter, completing a year in which we achieved our financial targets and made significant strategic investments," executive chairman Galen Weston said in a statement.

"We will continue these investments through 2020, positioning Loblaw to deliver long-term shareholder value."

On an adjusted basis, Loblaw says it earned $1.09 per diluted share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of $1.07 per diluted share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected an adjusted profit of $1.12 per share, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

In its outlook, Loblaw said it will remain focused on delivering process and efficiency improvements to offset increasing costs and to fund continued incremental investments in infrastructure and to support its strategic growth.

In 2020, the company said its results will include a 53rd week, which is expected to benefit adjusted net earnings per common share by approximately eight cents.

On a full-year comparative basis, excluding the impact of the extra week, Loblaw said it expects positive same-store sales and stable gross margin in its retail segment and to deliver positive adjusted net earnings growth.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020