Kroger forecasts upbeat holiday-quarter, beats Street view

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Kroger forecast upbeat same-store sales for the holiday quarter and reported higher-than-expected third-quarter results on Thursday after its aggressive discounting lured more customers to its stores, sending its shares up 12.5 percent.

Kroger said sales at identical stores open at least a year would exceed 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter as its efforts to revamp its business bear fruit. Analysts polled by Consensus Metrix expect these sales to rise 1.2 percent.

The supermarket owner, which has about 2,800 outlets in the United States, with chains such as Ralphs, Harris Teeter and Food 4 Less, has been reducing prices and exploring new ways to sell food as it battles rivals, including Wal-Mart, discounters Lidl and Aldi, and the newly merged Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.

The company launched “Restock Kroger” in October to reinvigorate its business, wherein it would invest $500 million in store employees, cut costs to continue reducing product prices and launch a new apparel brand in 2018.

Some of those initiatives seemed to help Kroger in the third quarter, boosting same-store sales, excluding fuel, by 1.1 percent. Analysts’ on average had estimated a 0.9 percent rise, according to Consensus Metrix.

“All in, we think this was a better-than-expected print, and though we still have our reservations about this story, the quarter seems healthy versus expectations,” J.P. Morgan analyst Ken Goldman said in a client note.

Shares in the Cincinnati-based supermarket chain, which also said it had its best-ever Black Friday results for general merchandise, rose 12.5 percent to $27.45 in premarket trading. The company’s stock has lost nearly a third of its value this year.

Kroger also reaffirmed its 2017 adjusted earnings per share forecast of $2.00-$2.05, which includes the impact from hurricanes in the U.S. southeast. Analysts on average were expecting $1.97 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company said it anticipates a one-time, non-cash expense in 2017 of $350 million-$500 million, related to the settlement of obligations for eligible participants’ pension balances.

Total revenue rose 4.5 percent to $27.75 billion.

Net earnings attributable to Kroger rose to $397 million, or 44 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Nov. 4, from $391 million, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts estimated earnings of 40 cents per share on sales of $27.46 billion.

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