Nash Finch Co. posted a fourth-quarter net loss Thursday stemming from asset write-downs, and the Edina-based food distributor's adjusted earnings declined 50 percent from a year earlier.

Adjusted for one-time charges, the company's fourth-quarter earnings per share were $6.4 million, or 49 cents per share.

Nash Finch, one of the nation's leading food wholesalers, reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $29 million, or $2.23 per share, compared with a net profit of $8.2 million, or 62 cents per share, a year ago.

The loss includes one-time, noncash charges of $24.2 million for goodwill impairment related to its military distribution business. Goodwill is an intangible asset, and a write-down is a recognition that its value has eroded.

The loss includes an additional $8 million write-down for other assets in Nash Finch's military and traditional food wholesaling segments.

Nash Finch's sales for the fourth quarter were $1.14 billion, down 1.1 percent from a year ago and below analysts' expectations. After adjusting for grocery store acquisitions made earlier in 2012, the company's compar­able fourth-quarter sales were down 4 percent over a year ago.

In the company's military segment, which supplies groceries to military bases, sales were $536.8 million, down 5.3 percent over a year ago. The business' operating profit fell, too, primarily due to lower inflation coupled with reduced rates on contracts and higher costs from the opening of new distribution centers.

Nash Finch's traditional food wholesaling and retailing division posted fourth-quarter sales of $598.8 million, up 3.1 percent — the result primarily of the acquisition of the Bag 'N Save and No Frills supermarket chains earlier in 2012.

Still, the food wholesaling and retailing group's operating profits dropped to $13.8 million in the fourth quarter from $16.3 million a year earlier.

Nash Finch's stock closed at $19.17, down 56 cents.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003