March 6 (Reuters) - Kroger Co, the biggest U.S. supermarket operator, forecast a higher-than-expected full-year profit as it benefits from the acquisition of southeast-focused grocer Harris Teeter.
The company's shares rose about 3 percent after it forecast a full-year profit of $3.14 to $3.25 per share, beating the average analyst estimate of $3.13.
Kroger completed the purchase of Matthews, North Carolina-based Harris Teeter Supermarkets for about $2.5 billion on Jan. 28, adding more than 200 supermarkets to its network.
The deal gave the Cincinnati-based company a bigger presence in the mid-Atlantic region and access to fast-growing markets.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which sells more food than any other retailer, recently issued a disappointing full-year forecast and blamed the food stamp benefit cuts and higher payroll taxes.
Kroger, which owns the Ralphs, Smith's and Food 4 Less chains, said it anticipated identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, of about 2.5 percent-3.5 percent for the year.
Identical-supermarket sales track stores that have remained open without expansion or relocation for five quarters.
The company said net income attributable to Kroger fell to $422 million, or 81 cents per share, in the quarter ended Feb. 1 from $462 million, or 88 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, earnings were 78 cents per share. On that basis, analysts on average had expected 72 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Total sales fell 3.7 percent to $23.2 billion.
Adjusting for the extra week in the year-earlier quarter, sales rose 4.8 percent.