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    Kroger Eyes Growth Opportunities

    The Kroger Co.’s CEO, David B. Dillon, said the company is interested in new acquisitions, but not of any struggling competitors.

    The Kroger Co.’s CEO, David B. Dillon, said the company is interested in new acquisitions, but not of any struggling competitors.

    Dillon noted that the company sees “plenty of growth opportunities” and has been considering acquisitions, but is avoiding businesses significantly weakened by the recent recession, according to published reports. Kroger doesn’t “want to buy somebody else’s problem,” Dillon said after Thursday’s annual shareholders meeting.

    According to Dillon, Kroger is most likely to add stores in or near its current supermarkets. “Generally, the ones we’ve looked at more often are the ones in our existing markets and adjacent markets,” he said. “Our acquisition and expansion plans are really designed around what we think works for Kroger; it’s not a reaction to, say, Walmart being international.”

    Kroger reported last week that profits fell 14 percent in the first quarter, while sales rose nearly 9 percent.

    Dillon expressed pride in total sales of nearly $77 billion during 2009. “Even in the face of high unemployment and a weak U.S. economy, Kroger sharpened its performance,” he said, noting later in the meeting that the company added 24,000 new jobs over the past two years.

    Shareholders on Thursday elected the company’s slate of directors with 93 percent approval. In other business, the company’s board increased common stock buyback plans to $500 million, more than doubling the $225 million left under its earlier repurchase plan. The board also declared a quarterly dividend of 9.5 cents a share.

    The nation’s largest traditional grocer, Cincinnati-based Kroger operates 2,470 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banners, including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s.

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