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Kroger Near 6-Year High

cnbc.com
Tuesday, 5 Dec 2006 | 10:26 AM ET

The stock of the nation's largest traditional grocery chain hit its highest level since January, 2001 as the company reported earnings above Wall Street's expectations.

Kroger said its third-quarter profit rose 16% as established stores turned in a solid performance.

Net income for the quarter ended Nov. 4 climbed to $214.7 million, or 30 cents a share, compared with net income of $185.4 million, or 25 cents a share, last year.

That was ahead of analyst's consensus of 28 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Revenue gained 5% to $14.7 billion, from $14.02 billion last year. Analysts predicted revenue of $14.86 billion.

Same-store sales, or sales in stores open at least one year, increased 4.9% including gasoline sales and 5.3% excluding fuel sales.

Kroger operates nearly 2,500 supermarkets under such banners as Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer and Smith's. It also operates 774 convenience stores.

The company expects same-store sales growth to be better than 5% in the fourth quarter, excluding gasoline. Kroger raised its estimate for earnings a share growth to 8 percent to 10 percent, adding that it is "striving" for the upper end of that range based on the latest results. The grocer had previously estimated per share growth at 6% to 8%.

The new range implies earnings between $1.41 and $1.44, compared with year-ago earnings of $1.31 a share. Analysts expect $1.45 a share.

For fiscal 2007, the company sees earnings per share growth between 6% and 8%.

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