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Supermarket chain Aeon Co. said Tuesday it logged a group net loss of ¥2.76 billion for the business year ended in February, falling into the red for the first time in seven years due to lackluster consumer spending and special losses linked to U.S. clothing affiliate Talbots Inc.

The loss compares with a group net profit of ¥43.93 billion logged a year earlier. Group operating profit slid 20.3 percent to ¥124.37 billion on sales of ¥5.23 trillion, up 1.2 percent.

The company said it will shift to smaller supermarkets and increase its range of low-priced products.

It also plans to open 30 stores in China and other high-growth countries in Asian by fiscal 2010.

While the global economic crisis sharply curbed household spending, Aeon said it expects to return to the black in fiscal 2009, anticipating a group net profit of between ¥7.5 billion and ¥15.0 billion.

It also projected a group operating profit between ¥130 billion and ¥140 billion, up 4.5 percent to 12.6 percent from a year earlier, on sales of over ¥5.24 trillion, up over 0.2 percent.

Aeon, which operates Jusco and MaxValu supermarket stores, said it booked an extraordinary loss of ¥37.9 billion linked to Talbots, which took massive impairment losses.

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