LAKELAND, Fla. – Publix net earnings for the first quarter of 2011 were $398.2 million, compared to $364.4 million in 2010 – an increase of 9.3 percent. Earnings per share for the first quarter increased to $0.51 for 2011, up from $0.47 per share in 2010.

First quarter sales totaled $6.8 billion, a 4.4 percent increase from last year’s $6.5 billion. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of 2011 increased 2.8 percent.

Publix’s stock price increased from $20.90 per share to $21.65 per share effective May 1. Publix stock is not publicly traded and is made available for sale only to current Publix associates and members of its board of directors.

“Although the economy continues to be weak, I’m pleased our strong operating performance resulted in another increase in our stock price,” said Ed Crenshaw, Publix CEO.

Publix is privately owned and operated by its 147,500 employees, with 2010 sales of $25.1 billion. It operates 1,034 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee.