Albertsons, the nations second largest supermarket chain, announced its first quarter earnings were up 67 percent on Tuesday.

The company posted earnings of $166 million, or 44 cents per diluted share, for its first fiscal quarter, ending May 4. This is up from $107 posted a year ago, or 29 cents per diluted share.

Analysts, on average, expected earnings of 25 cents per share, according to a Thomson Financial survey.

First quarter results for 2006 were positively impacted by higher gross margins and lower expenses, including a pre-tax gain of $47 million or $0.08 per diluted share, net of tax, for planned pension curtailments approved during the quarter.

Total comparable store sales decreased 0.1% and total identical store sales decreased 0.2%, and as a whole, sales were $9.9 billion, slightly lower compared to the first quarter of 2005.

During the quarter eight new stores were opened, 18 were closed and 20 remodelings were completed. A total of 2,461 stores were open at the end of the quarter.

As announced, Albertson's is in the process of being sold to a consortium of companies consisting of grocer Supervalu, and drugstore chain CVS.

Approximately 98% of the total shares that voted on the approval of the transaction merger agreement voted for its approval, representing approximately 60% of the company's common shares outstanding on April 24, 2006. The acquisition is expected to close in early June.

Currently, Albertsons has divisions and subsidiaries that operate approximately 2,500 stores in 37 states across the U.S. and employ approximately 240,000 workers.

Shares of Albertsons fell 1.5 percent to $34.09 by end of day trading on the New York Stock Exchange.