March 7 Kroger Co, the biggest U.S.
supermarket operator, on Thursday reported a quarterly profit
that easily topped Wall Street's expectations after it lured
customers from rivals.
The results from the Cincinnati-based grocer, which operates
the Kroger, Ralphs, Smith's and Food 4 Less chains, sent shares
up more than 3 percent in early trading.
Kroger posted fourth-quarter net earnings of $461.5 million,
or 88 cents per share.
Excluding gains from inventory accounting and taxes, the
company earned 77 cents per share, 7 cents better than Wall
Street expected, Kroger said.
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 in the latest quarter, largely in-line with analysts'
Kroger said its market-share growth accelerated at year's
end and customers were buying more items during each visit.
Excluding fuel, identical-supermarket sales were up 3
percent, more than the 0.8 percent gain recently reported by
smaller rival Safeway Inc.
Identical-supermarket sales are a measure of a grocer's
performance because they track stores that have remained open
without expansion or relocation for five full quarters.
Kroger - whose rivals also 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 3.4 percent to $30.36 in morning
trading on the New York Stock Exchange.