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Total sales increased 5.9 percent to $21.8 billion in the third quarter of 2012 for The Kroger Co., compared with $20.6 billion for the same period last year.
Excluding fuel, total sales rose 3.7 percent over the year-ago period. Q3 identical supermarket sales growth, without fuel, was 3.2 percent in the third quarter, delivering 36 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales for the Cincinnati-based grocer.
Kroger reported Q3 net earnings of 60 cents per diluted share, including a 14-cent credit card settlement benefit and a reduction in the company’s obligation to fund the employees’ union consolidated pension fund created in January. Excluding these benefits, adjusted earnings were a record 46 cents.
“Kroger achieved our growth objectives for the quarter, including positive identical supermarket sales, operating profit growth and outstanding tonnage growth,” said David B. Dillon, Kroger chairman and CEO. “This quarter illustrates that the strength of our core business positions Kroger to accelerate our earnings per share growth.”
Kroger’s strong financial position has allowed the company to return more than $1.7 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends over the last four quarters. During Q3, Kroger repurchased 14.5 million common shares for a total investment of $333 million.
Capital expenditures, excluding acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, totaled $473.5 million in Q3, compared to $497 million for the same period last year.
Kroger raised its diluted earnings per share guidance of $2.44 to $2.46 for the full year, up from the previous guidance range of $2.35 to $2.42. In the fourth quarter, the company expects same-store sales growth between 3 percent and 3.5 percent, excluding fuel.
“Kroger's proven Customer 1st Strategy continues to increase customer loyalty, identical supermarket sales and market share. With that foundation firmly in place, we are focused on deploying capital to further accelerate growth and improve ROIC,” Dillon said.
Kroger operates 2,422 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's.