Shares of the country's largest grocery chain, Kroger (KR) - Get Report , took a dive on Thursday following fourth-quarter earnings that caught Wall Street off-guard. But, are there still fresh profit opportunities from this stock?
Same-store sales fell by 0.7% during the quarter, worse than analyst estimates for growth of 0.1%. For the most part, earnings weren't all that terrible. While net income took a year-over-year fall from $559 million, or 57 cents a share, to $506 million, or 53 cents a share, the analyst consensus had been expecting just 52 cents per share.
And net sales rose by 5.5% to $27.6 billion, which beat Wall Street's expectation of $27.3 billion.
For full year 2017, Kroger released a somewhat-mixed outlook, expecting flattish earnings growth with earnings in the range of $2.21 to $2.25 a share. The company also expects same-store sales to come in either flat or increase up to 1%.
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There are a couple of thorns in Kroger's side right now such as plunging food prices thanks to a crop supply glut, sluggish economic growth, and really hot competition.
Large supermarket chains such as Kroger are coming under fire from discounters that are pushing already-low prices lower. Led by Germany-based Aldi, as well as by e-commerce superstar Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and mega-retailer Walmart (WMT) - Get Report , discount grocery retailers are taking over the space - especially when they can offer benefits like online ordering, delivery, and a growing range of organic products.
That's certainly put the squeeze on health food chain Whole Foods Market (WFM) , which recently posted its own quarterly earnings miss. Whole Foods was once the "go to" place for organic produce and gourmet food, but now other retailers have been undercutting its already-too-expensive prices.
Whole Foods has been trying to rectify the situation, debuting a value-oriented sister chain aimed toward millennial shoppers. But the competition is fierce and bound to get even fiercer as another German discounter, Lidl, prepares to enter the U.S. grocery store fray.
Walmart and rival Target (TGT) - Get Report made headlines recently by announcing new initiatives to keep their own grocery prices low and competitive. Those announcements didn't do Kroger's stock any favors, either.
Still, for the long run, Kroger's stock offers profit opportunities. Food prices move like a pendulum - within months, it's likely that they will be back on the upswing, which could boost Kroger's sales. And consumers will still need to go shopping at the grocery store. So, it's unlikely that Kroger's business will take anymore major hits.
The average 12-month price target for Kroger is around $36, which still offers some upside from Thursday's low price around $31 per share. But in the longer term, the company should provide some better opportunities for gains.
And if you still aren't sure on Kroger, check out these six stocks from Jim Cramer that will get a boost from the Trump tax plan.
The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.
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