Earnings: Albertson's | Kroger

Albertson's, Weighed Down By Charges, Posts 17% Decline In Profit

BOISE, Idaho -(AP) - Albertson's Inc. (ABS), the nation's second-largest supermarket chain, said Tuesday its profit in the fourth quarter declined 17 percent, weighed down by charges.

The company also said its latest quarter contained 13 weeks, or one week less than a year earlier.

For the quarter ended Feb. 2, net income fell to $162 million, or 43 cents per share, from $194 million, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier. Earnings in the latest quarter included 9 cents per share in charges, and the year-ago period reflects total charges of 2 cents per share. Excluding unusual items and discontinued operations, income grew to $200 million, or 54 cents per share, from $194 million, or 52 cents per share.

Quarterly sales fell 9 percent to $10.23 billion from $11.06 billion, as sales in stores open at least a year dipped 0.3 percent.

On average, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast a quarterly profit of 45 cents per share on $10.49 billion in revenue.

Gross margin in the quarter increased slightly to 27.92 percent versus 27.82 percent in last year's fourth quarter.

During the quarter, Boise-based Albertson's opened 13 stores, shut 18 stores and remodeled 37 stores. At the end of the quarter, the company operated 2,471 stores.

Kroger Posts Profit

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Kroger Co., the largest U.S. supermarket chain, Tuesday swung to a quarterly profit from a year-earlier loss, helped by stronger sales.

The company also forecast per-share earnings growth of 6 percent to 8 percent for 2006 and 2007, buoyed by improvement in customer service and product selection.

Profit was $282 million, or 39 cents per share, in the fiscal fourth quarter. In the year-earlier period, the company posted a net loss of $652 million, or 89 cents per share, dragged down by an impairment charge related to its Ralphs and Food 4 Less operations.

Analysts, on average, expected Cincinnati-based Kroger, which also operates Fred Meyer and King Soopers stores, to report profit of 36 cents a share.

Revenue rose 7.5 percent to $14.7 billion, better than the analysts' average estimate of $14.64 billion.

The chain also said it would start paying a quarterly dividend of 6.5 cents a share.

Kroger is the largest traditional supermarket chain, but its sales lag behind those of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is the largest retailer overall, and the largest seller of food in the United States.

Kroger and other grocers were hit hard by a five-month strike in Southern California that ended in February 2004, and it took several quarters for sales to bounce back.

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