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Kroger records Q4 net loss despite boost in total, same-store sales


CINCINNATI — Despite recording an increase in total and identical-store sales during fourth quarter 2011, Kroger reported a net loss due to costs associated with consolidating its pension plan for union workers.

The grocer, whose banners include Kroger, Ralphs and Food 4 Less, said the loss of of $306.9 million, or 54 cents per share, compared with a profit of $278.8 million in the year-ago period.

Total sales in the quarter rose 7.7% to $21.4 billion. Excluding fuel, sales rose 5%. Same-store sales increased 4.9% (excluding fuel).

Fiscal year 2011 sales also were affected by the pension plan consolidation: earnings totaled $602.1 million or $1.01 per diluted share, compared with the year-ago period's $1.1 billion, or $1.74 per diluted share. When excluding the affect, earnings for the year were $1.2 billion, or $2 per diluted share.


Meanwhile, total sales increased 10.2% to $90.4 billion, compared with $82.0 billion for fiscal year 2010. Excluding fuel sales, total sales increased 5% over the same period last year. Same-store sales, without fuel, increased 4.9% in fiscal year 2011, compared with the prior fiscal year.

Looking ahead, Kroger anticipates same-store sales growth, excluding fuel, of approximately 3% to 3.5% for fiscal year 2012, which includes the expected negative effect on sales from prescription drugs coming off patent. The company also noted that its business model is structured to produce annual EPS growth averaging 6% to 8%, plus a dividend of 1.5% to 2%, for a total shareholder return of approximately 8% to 10%. Full-year net earnings for fiscal 2012 are expected to range from $2.28 to $2.38 per diluted share.

"Kroger increased identical sales, grew market share and invested wisely to continue to win customer loyalty," Kroger chairman and CEO David Dillon said. "That we were able to raise earnings per share and identical-sales guidance through the year and achieve those higher results demonstrates the strength of our business strategy and momentum for a strong 2012."

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