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Kroger momentum continues in Q4

The Kroger Co. reported a strong end to a strong year as Q4 digital sales soared 118%.

The nation’s largest supermarket reported that company sales totaled $30.7 billion for the quarter ended Jan. 30, growing 10.7% if fuel and dispositions are excluded. Identical sales rose 10.6%. Digital sales soared 118%.

For the full year, Kroger’s identical sales increased 14.1%. Full-year sales rose to a record $132.5 billion from $122.3 the prior year.

The company reported an earnings per share loss of $0.10, versus a profit of $0.40 per share in the year-ago period, due to a $989 million negative impact associated with a pre-tax charge related to United Food and Commercial Workers International pension commitments and other items. Profitability was also affected by price investments, COVID-19 related expenses and employee investments

Adjusted earnings were $0.81 cents, topping analysts’ estimates of $0.69 per share.

"Kroger continued to grow market share during the quarter. Our ability to meet our customers' evolving needs is a testament to our deep competitive moats, disciplined investments in our increasingly robust digital capabilities, as well as our associates' relentless focus on our customers,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger chairman and CEO. “We finished fiscal year 2020 with strong sales and earnings, as heightened demand for fresh, convenient food and meal solutions across modalities, including in store, pick up and home delivery, continued throughout the fourth quarter.”

For fiscal 2021, Kroger expects identical sales will decline 3% to 5% on a year-over-year basis, but will increase between 9.1% and 11.1% on a two-year basis. The retailer forecast full-year profit per share between $2.75 and $2.95, above analysts' estimates of $2.69, as it undertakes cost-saving initiatives. 

"Our 2021 guidance contemplates continued investments in associates and customers plus ongoing COVID-19 related costs, balanced with continued execution of cost savings initiatives and growth in our alternative profit businesses,” said CFO Gary Millership. “We remain committed to delivering strong and attractive total shareholder return over the long term and expect our 2021 operating profit guidance to represent a new, higher baseline from which we will deliver total shareholder return of 8-11%.” 

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