(By Balachander) Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) shares gained in Thursday early trade after the supermarkets operator raised its 2012 guidance following stronger-than-forecast quarterly earnings.
On an adjusted basis, earnings per share (EPS) were 46 cents, topping market expectations of 43 cents for the three months ended October.
Net earnings jumped nearly 62 percent to $316.5 million, including $74 million benefit from a settlement with Visa and MasterCard and from a reduction in the company's obligation to fund the UFCW consolidated pension fund created in January.
Sales rose 6 percent to $21.81 billion. Excluding fuel, total sales grew 3.7 percent. Wall Street analysts, on average, expected sales growth of 5.10 percent to $21.65 billion.
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Identical supermarket sales growth, without fuel, was 3.2 percent in the third quarter.
Looking forward for the fourth quarter, Kroger expects identical supermarket sales growth between 3.0 percent and 3.5 percent, excluding fuel.
For the full year, the company now expects adjusted EPS in the range of $2.44 to $2.46 from prior expectations of $2.35 to $2.42, while analysts expect $2.41.
The stock, which has been trading in the 52-week range of $20.98 to $25.44, traded 3.51 percent higher at $25.90 on Thursday.