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Lawson Inc. said Wednesday its net profit for the year that ended in February rose 10 percent to a record 20.44 billion yen, buoyed by strong sales and aggressive store-openings.

Sales rose 4 percent to 254.39 billion yen during the year, the company said.

As a result, the country’s top three convenience store chains — Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Lawson and FamilyMart Co. — all enjoyed solid earnings growth for fiscal 2004.

Second-place Lawson reduced the size of its domestic chain during fiscal 2002 by closing 109 unprofitable stores. There was a small net gain in stores in fiscal 2003.

For fiscal 2004, it opened 256 new outlets overall, bringing the total to 8,077. The company noted that its revamped “onigiri” (rice ball) and “bento” (boxed lunch) menus helped drive up sales.

The chain said it would continue to expand its Shanghai business and build 100 more stores in the city for a total of 310 in the current fiscal year.

“I paid a half-day visit to Shanghai on Monday to look at the situation there,” Lawson President Takeshi Niinami told a news conference. He stressed that the ongoing tensions between Japan and China have had “no impact” on business.

On Tuesday, No. 3 FamilyMart reported an 8 percent drop in net profit for fiscal 2004 after writing-down assets. But its retail business showed robust growth, with operating profit rising 6 percent to 30.87 billion yen on revenue of 252.9 billion yen, up 10 percent from a year earlier.

The chain said the strong figures are the result of efforts to revamp weak outlets by dispatching support teams and conducting mobile seminars.

Food items tailored to local tastes also helped attract customers, it said.

During the period, the chain opened 225 stores on a net basis in Japan, bringing the total to 6,424.

Last week, the country’s largest convenience store chain, Seven-Eleven Japan, also reported solid earnings growth.

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