Kroger Reports Record Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2012 Results Q4 EPS of $0.88 and Full Year 2012 EPS of $2.77

Q4 ID Sales Up 3.0% Without Fuel

CINCINNATI, March 7, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) today reported net earnings of $0.88 per diluted share and identical supermarket sales growth, without fuel, of 3.0% in the fourth quarter. The Company reported net earnings for fiscal year 2012 of $2.77 per diluted share and identical sales growth, without fuel, of 3.5%. The fourth quarter and full fiscal year earnings per share results include an $0.11 per diluted share benefit of a 53rd week (extra week).

The year's strong results included:

  • Record EPS that exceeded guidance by $0.07 per diluted share, on an adjusted basis (Table 6)
  • EPS growth of 16% on an adjusted basis (Table 6)
  • Increased rolling four quarters FIFO operating margin, excluding fuel, of 6 bps
  • Record 52-week FIFO EBITDA

"Our associates delivered an outstanding year that underscores how our growing connection with customers remains the key to shareholder value creation," said David B. Dillon, Kroger's chairman and chief executive officer. "Kroger's unique value offering of better service, great products and an enjoyable shopping experience with low prices continues to resonate with a full range of customers. The result is an industry-leading 37 consecutive quarters of positive identical sales growth."

Details of Fourth Quarter 2012 Results

Sales and Earnings

Total sales increased 12.8% to $24.2 billion in the fourth quarter ended February 2, 2013. After adjusting for the extra week in the fourth quarter, total sales increased by 3.7% over the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011.

Net earnings for the fourth quarter totaled $461.5 million, or $0.88 per diluted share. LIFO was $0.09 per diluted share lower than estimated and a discrete tax item added $0.02 per diluted share to the results for the quarter. Excluding these benefits, Kroger exceeded fourth quarter earnings per diluted share expectations by $0.07.

On an adjusted basis (Table 6), net earnings per diluted share in the fourth quarter 2012 grew 22%.

Fourth Quarter Operating Results

FIFO gross margin decreased 43 basis points from the same period last year, excluding retail fuel operations and the extra week.

The company recorded a $41.2 million LIFO credit during the quarter compared to a $73.4 million LIFO charge in the same quarter last year.

Operating, general and administrative costs plus rent and depreciation, excluding retail fuel operations and the extra week, declined 70 basis points as a percent of sales compared to the prior year's adjusted fourth quarter.

Fiscal Year 2012 Results

For the full 2012 fiscal year, total sales increased to $96.8 billion or 7.1% compared with the prior fiscal year. After adjusting for the extra week in fiscal 2012, total sales increased to $94.8 billion or 4.9% compared with the prior fiscal year.

Excluding fuel, total sales increased 6% over the same period last year. Further adjusting for the extra week, total sales excluding fuel increased 4%.

Net earnings for fiscal year 2012 totaled $1.50 billion, or $2.77 per diluted share. These results include LIFO being lower than the Company's guidance by $0.08 per diluted share, the discrete tax item that added $0.02 per diluted share in the fourth quarter, and the $0.14 per diluted share benefit from the credit card settlement and a reduction in the UFCW pension accrual in the third quarter. Collectively, these totaled $0.24 per diluted share and were not included in the Company's guidance. As a result, Kroger exceeded the high end of its fiscal 2012 earnings per diluted share guidance by $0.07.  

On an adjusted basis (Table 6), net earnings per diluted share in fiscal year 2012 grew 16%.

Kroger recorded a LIFO charge of approximately $55 million. The company's fiscal 2011 LIFO charge was $216 million.

"We are very pleased with our full year 2012 results," Mr. Dillon said. "We achieved strong sales and pharmacy results, plus controlled expenses well throughout the year. We delivered value to shareholders by increasing our dividend 30 percent and exceeding our own earnings per share guidance through the combination of solid operating results and share buybacks in 2012."

Financial Strategy

Kroger's strong financial position allowed the company to return more than $1.5 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends in 2012. During the fourth quarter, Kroger repurchased 2.2 million common shares for a total investment of $57 million.

Capital investments, excluding acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, totaled $2.0 billion for the year, compared to $1.9 billion in 2011.

Kroger recently began reporting return on invested capital, or ROIC. ROIC on a 52-week, rolling four quarters basis was 13.4%, compared to 13.4% during the same period last year.

Net total debt was $8.6 billion, an increase of $470.6 million from a year ago. Kroger's net total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio was 2.04, compared to 2.00 during the same period last year (Table 5).

Fiscal 2013 Annual Guidance

Full-year net earnings for fiscal 2013 are expected to range from $2.71 to $2.79 per diluted share. This equates to the Company's long term growth rate of 8 – 11% from the adjusted fiscal 2012 earnings per diluted share of $2.52 (Table 6). Shareholder return will be further enhanced by a dividend of 2.0% to 2.5%, for a total shareholder return of approximately 10% to 13.5%.

Kroger anticipates identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, of approximately 2.5% to 3.5% for fiscal year 2013.

During fiscal 2013, Kroger plans to use cash flow from operations to fund capital investments, pay dividends to shareholders, maintain its current debt rating and repurchase shares. We expect capital investments to be in the $2.1 to $2.4 billion range for the year.

"Kroger's performance is the result of our associates' hard work and commitment to making each day better for our customers," Mr. Dillon said. "Building on the momentum of last year, we expect to deliver the growth in 2013 that we outlined at our investors meeting in October."

Kroger, one of the world's largest retailers, employs 343,000 associates who serve customers in 2,424 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. The company also operates 786 convenience stores, 328 fine jewelry stores, 1,169 supermarket fuel centers and 37 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations in the communities it serves. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 160 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners

Note: Fuel sales have historically had a low FIFO gross margin rate and OG&A rate as compared to corresponding rates on non-fuel sales. As a result Kroger discusses the changes in these rates excluding the effect of retail fuel operations.

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements about the future performance of the company. These statements are based on management's assumptions and beliefs in light of the information currently available to it. These statements are indicated by words such as "expected," "will," "expects," "plan," and "anticipates." Our ability to achieve identical supermarket sales and earnings growth and earnings per share goals, as well as the timing that those earnings occur within the year, may be affected by: labor disputes, particularly as the Company seeks to manage health care and pension costs; industry consolidation; pricing and promotional activities of existing and new competitors, including nontraditional competitors, the aggressiveness of competition, and our response to these activities; unexpected changes in product costs; the state of the economy, including interest rates and the inflationary and deflationary trends in certain commodities; the extent to which our customers exercise caution in their purchasing behavior in response to economic conditions as well as fuel and food prices; the number of shares outstanding; the success of our future growth plans; goodwill impairment; changes in government funded benefit programs; volatility in our fuel margins; the effect of fuel costs on consumer spending; the effect of prescription drugs going off patent has on our  sales and earnings; our expectations regarding our ability to obtain additional pharmacy  sales from third party payors; and our ability to generate sales at desirable margins, as well as the success of our programs designed to increase our identical sales without fuel.  In addition, any delays in opening new stores, failure to achieve tonnage growth as expected, or changes in the economic climate, could cause us to fall short of our sales and earnings targets.  Our ability to increase identical supermarket sales also could be adversely affected by increased competition, and sales shifts to other stores that we operate, as well as increases in sales of our corporate brand products.  Earnings and sales also may be affected by adverse weather conditions, particularly to the extent that adverse weather conditions and natural disasters disrupt our operations or those of our suppliers; create shortages in the availability or increases in the cost of products that we sell in our stores or materials and ingredients we use in our manufacturing facilities; or raise the cost of supplying energy to our various operations, including the cost of transportation; and the benefits that we receive from the consolidation of the UFCW pension plans.  Our earnings per share results also will be affected by our ability to improve our operating results and our ability to repurchase shares under our repurchase program as expected.  Our capital investments, our plan to increase capital investments, and the number of projects that we complete, could vary from our expectations if we are unsuccessful in acquiring suitable sites for new stores; development costs vary from those budgeted; our logistics and technology or store projects are not completed on budget or within the time frame projected; or if current operating conditions fail to improve, or worsen. Our plans to use cash flow from operations to fund capital investments, repurchase shares, pay dividends to shareholders, and maintain our current debt rating will depend on our ability to generate free cash flow and otherwise to have cash on hand, which will be affected by all of the factors identified above, as well as the extent to which funds can be used for those reasons while maintaining our debt rating.   Total shareholder return,  and our ability to continue to reward shareholders in 2013 through increased earnings,  quarterly dividends, and share repurchases, will be affected by all of the factors identified  above, as well as the ability of the company to pay dividends from free cash flow as contemplated.  These forward-looking statements are subject to uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially. We assume no obligation to update the information contained herein. Please refer to Kroger's reports and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a further discussion of these risks and uncertainties.

Note: Kroger's quarterly conference call with investors will be broadcast live online at 10 a.m. (ET) on March 7, 2013 at An on-demand replay of the webcast will be available from approximately 1 p.m. (ET) Thursday, March 7 through Thursday, March 21, 2013.

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