Kroger reports higher earnings, profit

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Kroger Co., the nation’s largest traditional supermarket chain, today reported that earnings per share and operating profit were up in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The grocer reported fourth quarter earnings per share of 40 cents, with adjusted earnings per share at 57 cents, up 18.8 percent. That bested  analyst expectations of 55 cents per share.

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The adjusted operating profit was put at $758 million, up nearly 21 percent.

Net earnings for the final quarter of 2019 were put at $327 million, above the $259 million reported for the same quarter in 2018. For the whole year 2019, net earnings were reported to be nearly $1.66 billion, or $2.05 per common share.

“We are pleased with our 2019 results and improving trends in our supermarket business,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger chairman and chief executive, said in a release Thursday morning.

Kroger said it also reduced net total debt by $1.1 billion over the last year.

Dividends to shareholders are also going up, for the 13th straight year, Kroger said. In 2019, the Cincinnati-based company increased its dividend by 14 percent, from 56 cents to 64 cents per year.

Kroger repurchased $400 million shares in the fourth quarter of 2019 under its $1 billion board authorization announced last November.

“In total, Kroger returned $951 million to shareholders in 2019,” the company said.

The company also said it plans to close 35 of its 2,800 nationwide stores this year, which will entail an impairment charge.

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