Kroger swings to profit, shares rise

March 7 Thu Mar 7, 2013 9:38am EST

March 7 (Reuters) - Kroger Co, the biggest U.S. supermarket operator, said on Thursday it swung to a quarterly profit after total sales matched Wall Street's view.

The Cincinnati-based grocer, which operates the Kroger, Ralphs, Smith's and Food 4 Less chains, reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $461.5 million, or 88 cents per share.

In the year-ago quarter Kroger reported a loss of $306.9 million, or 54 cents per share, after it booked a large charge related to consolidating its pension plan.

Total sales, including fuel, rose 12.8 percent to $24.2 billion, largely in-line with analysts' estimate of $24 billion.

The company - whose rivals include discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp - set its 2013 earnings forecast at $2.71 to $2.79 per share.

Kroger's shares rose 2.7 percent to $30.16 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.