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Safeway Will Cut Prices and Costs in 2009

New York City Safeway Inc. told investors Thursday that it will aggressively cut costs, lower prices and focus on improving its financial position in 2009, the Associated Press reported.

"We are a very strong player in a very weak economy, and we think that creates a very strong opportunity to take [market share]," Steve Burd, the chain's chairman and CEO, said during the company's annual investor meeting Thursday.

Safeway said it expects its identical-store sales, excluding fuel, to grow between 2% and 3%.

"These results will be supported by an aggressive cost-reduction effort, coupled with price reductions, to further the company's effort to lower everyday pricing," the company said in a statement.

Safeway leaders said the focus on value, such as heavy emphasis on its store brands and strategic promotions, is essential for success as consumers limit spending amid tough times.

The company plans to slow capital investments, which have been heavy in recent years as it updated many of its stores to its “Lifestyle” format. Company leaders said that within the year they also will take other measures to reduce costs, such as controlling spending on energy through strategic arrangements.

Safeway said its cash expenditures will total $1.2 billion, down from $1.6 billion in 2008. And it will nearly double its free cash flow.

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