(By Balaseshan) Kroger Co. (NYSE:KR) posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings on higher sales. The grocery retailer increased its fiscal 2012 earnings forecast on strong first half performance and higher than anticipated share repurchase activity.
Earnings were $279.1 million or $0.51 per share for the second quarter, compared with $280.8 million or $0.46 per share in the year-ago quarter.
Revenue rose 3.9% to $21.7 billion. Excluding fuel, total sales increased 3.8% over last year.
Analysts, on average, polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of $0.49 per share on revenue of $21.91 billion for the second quarter.
FIFO gross margin was 20.63% of sales for the latest quarter. FIFO gross margin, excluding retail fuel operations, decreased 43 basis points from last year.
Kroger, which operates the Ralphs, Fred Meyer, King Soopers, Dillons and Food 4 Less brands, said identical supermarket sales, excluding fuel, rose 3.6% from last year.
Looking ahead for the full year, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based company raised its earnings per share forecast to range of $2.35 to $2.42 per share from previous estimate of $2.33 to $2.40 per share, while Street analysts predict $2.37 per share.
Identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, is still expected to be about 3.0% to 3.5%. Kroger expects to achieve in the upper end of the range for both earnings per share and sales growth.
Kroger expects to have a slightly higher FIFO operating margin rate, excluding fuel, for the fiscal 2012.
The stock, which has been trading in the range of $20.98 to $24.83 over the past year, closed Thursday's regular session at $23.10.