Kroger Jumps on Strong Fourth Quarter

Kroger says its value and 'private selection' products showed exceptional growth, helping boost profit by 8%
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Updated from 1:58 p.m. EDTKroger (KR) - Get Report announced Tuesday an 8% increase in fourth-quarter profit in 2008, prompting a spike in its share price.

Kroger reported net earnings of $349.2 million, or 53 cents per diluted share, for its fiscal fourth quarter, up from $322.9 million, or 48 cents per diluted share, in the same period of 2007. Total fourth-quarter sales were $17.3 billion, compared with $17.2 billion a year earlier. The company said that excluding fuel sales at Kroger supermarket fuel centers and convenience stores, total sales increased 4.4% over the prior year. Identical supermarket sales, excluding fuel, increased 3.8% over the same period last year, Kroger said.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected earnings of 51 cents per share, on revenue of $18.3 billion.

For fiscal 2008, total sales increased 8.2% to $76.0 billion over the same period last year, Kroger said. Identical supermarket sales, excluding fuel, rose 5% compared with the same period a year ago.

Net earnings for 2008 were $1.25 billion, or $1.90 per diluted share. Net earnings in fiscal 2007 were $1.18 billion, or $1.69 per diluted share.

Kroger shares closed the day up 10.2% to $21.44.

The company said 27% of its fourth-quarter revenue came from its Kroger brands, which reached a record high of 35% of grocery unit sales. It said growth was exceptionally strong for its value and "private selection" goods.

"Kroger offered real value to customers when they needed it most through lower prices, led by our high-quality Kroger brands. The Kroger team did a remarkable job during the quarter and throughout the entire year of consistently delivering results in an increasingly difficult economic environment," said David B. Dillon, Kroger chairman and chief executive officer.