More Store Brands, Shorter Lines Help Boost Kroger Earnings

Inside A Grocery Co. Grocery Store Ahead Of Earns Figures
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CINCINNATI -- Kroger said its fiscal second-quarter net income climbed 14 percent, helped by lower charges as revenue increased. The country's largest traditional supermarket operator also lifted the low end of its fiscal 2013 outlook for a key revenue metric.

Shares edged higher in Thursday morning trading.

Kroger Co. (KR), which owns Ralphs, Fry's, its namesake stores and others, earned $317 million, or 60 cents a share, for the quarter ended Aug. 17. That compared with $279 million, or 51 cents a share, in the 2012 second quarter.

The results were just above the 59 cents a share that analysts polled by FactSet expected, on average. The latest quarter included an accounting-related charge of $13 million, compared with a $35 million charge in the prior-year period.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $22.72 billion from $21.73 billion, topping Wall Street's estimate of $22.69 billion.

Kroger and other supermarket companies are trying to adapt to a shifting industry. Shoppers are increasingly getting groceries at big-box retailers such as Walmart Stores (WMT), Target (TGT), drugstores and dollar stores that have expanded their food sections.

Kroger has worked on shortening checkout wait times, expanded its store-brand lineup and invested in making its loyalty program more sophisticated.

Looking ahead, the Cincinnati company now expects fiscal 2013 revenue at supermarkets open at least a year to increase about 3 to 3.5 percent, excluding fuel. Prior guidance was for a 2.5 to 3.5 percent rise. Wall Street was forecasting a 3.3 percent gain.

Kroger still expects full-year earnings in a range of $2.73 to $2.80 a share. Analysts predict earnings of $2.80 a share.

The stock added 65 cents to $38.32 in trading after Thursday's opening bell. Shares have traded between $22.90 and $39.98 in the past 52 weeks, and are up about 45 percent since the start of the year.

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