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Aeon Co. logged a consolidated net loss of ¥53.9 billion in the March to May period, its largest loss since the retail giant began releasing quarterly net balance information in the fiscal year to February 2005.

The company was in the red in its first-quarter net balance for the second straight year, according to its earnings report released on Wednesday.

The massive red ink reflected the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on Aeon’s mainstay general merchandise retail business, with temporary closures of Aeon shopping malls amid the virus crisis also weighing on the retail group’s earnings.

People’s efforts to stay home to avoid infections that started to spread in March led to plunges in sales of all goods excluding food items at Aeon’s general merchandise outlets, and the drops accelerated after the government’s declaration of a state of emergency over the novel coronavirus that causes the disease in April.

The retail group’s real estate development business, for shopping malls and other commercial facilities, also struggled as the pandemic caused temporary closures of half of its Chinese facilities in February and all of its domestic facilities in April, leading to a large cut in rental income from tenants.

Meanwhile, food sales grew as more people stocked up food items for consumption at home. The brisk food sales led to an improvement of some ¥20 billion in the company’s operating income for the category.

The health and wellness business also boomed on the back of robust sales at drugstores.

Aeon did not revise its earnings forecasts for the full fiscal year ending next February, saying that, while businesses are recovering faster than expected, the company is not yet in a state that would require estimate revisions.

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