Kroger Reports Record Second Quarter Results

September 12, 2014

PRESS RELEASE

Q2 EPS of $0.70; Raises FY 2014 Adjusted EPS Guidance to $3.22 to $3.28 ID Sales Up 4.8% Without Fuel; Raises FY 2014 ID Sales Guidance to 3.5% to 4.25%

Company Release - 09/11/2014 08:30

CINCINNATI, Sept. 11, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) today reported net earnings of $347 million, or $0.70 per diluted share, and identical supermarket sales growth, without fuel, of 4.8% in the second quarter of fiscal year 2014. Net earnings in the same period last year were $317 million, or $0.60 per diluted share.

Other highlights of the quarter include:

  • Achieved 43rd consecutive quarter of positive identical supermarket sales growth
  • Exceeded goal to slightly expand FIFO operating margin, without fuel, on a rolling four quarters basis
  • Increased capital investment and increased ROIC

"We are winning with customers because we offer a full range of advantages including a great overall shopping experience, excellent customer service, a complete assortment of both national and corporate brand products, and everyday low prices and promotional offerings," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chief executive officer. "As we improve our connection with customers, we are also executing our growth plan and delivering on our key performance indicators -- all of which is fueling strong financial results for shareholders."

Details of Second Quarter 2014 Results

This is the second consecutive quarter that includes Harris Teeter in Kroger's statement of operations. Year-over-year percentage comparisons are affected as a result.

Total sales increased 11.6% to $25.3 billion in the second quarter compared to $22.7 billion for the same period last year. Total sales, excluding fuel, increased 12.4% in the second quarter over the same period last year.

Kroger recorded a $26 million LIFO charge during the second quarter compared to a $13 million LIFO charge in the same quarter last year. The company increased its LIFO estimate for the year to $100 million, resulting in an incremental $0.01 per diluted share charge to earnings in the second quarter. The effect of this charge is included in the company's updated guidance for 2014.

FIFO gross margin was 20.54% of sales for the second quarter. Excluding retail fuel operations, FIFO gross margin decreased 12 basis points from the same period last year.

Operating, general and administrative costs plus rent and depreciation, excluding retail fuel operations, were essentially flat as a percent of sales compared to the prior year. Increases in workers compensation and general liability reserves negatively affected this comparison by 8 basis points.

Second quarter FIFO operating profit, excluding fuel, increased approximately $40 million over the prior year. On a rolling four quarters basis excluding fuel and adjustment items, the company's FIFO operating margin increased 7 basis points.

Financial Strategy

Kroger's strong financial position allowed the company to return more than $1.9 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends over the last four quarters. During the second quarter, Kroger repurchased 1.6 million common shares for a total investment of $78 million.

Capital investments, excluding mergers, acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, totaled $672 million for the second quarter, compared to $507 million for the same period last year.

Return on invested capital, on a rolling four quarters basis as described in table 7, was 13.6%, an increase from 13.5% in the same period last year.

Kroger remains committed to achieving a 2.00 — 2.20 net total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio by mid-to-late 2015. Kroger took on debt to finance the Harris Teeter merger, and has not yet realized a full year of Harris Teeter EBITDA. This has caused a significant increase in the company's net total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio, which is 2.33 as of the close of the second quarter, compared to 1.77 during the same period last year, as described in table 5.

Kroger's net total debt is $11.2 billion, an increase of $3.5 billion from a year ago, including debt related to the Harris Teeter transaction and Kroger's share repurchase activity.

Fiscal 2014 Guidance

Based on the second quarter results, the company raised and narrowed its adjusted net earnings per diluted share guidance to a range of $3.22 to $3.28 for fiscal 2014. The previous guidance was $3.19 to $3.27 per diluted share.

The company's long-term net earnings per diluted share growth rate guidance remains 8 — 11%, plus a growing dividend.

Kroger raised its identical supermarket sales growth guidance, excluding fuel, to 3.5% to 4.25% for fiscal 2014. The previous guidance was 3.0% to 4.0%.

Kroger continues to use cash flow from operations to maintain its current investment grade debt rating, repurchase shares, grow its dividend, and fund capital investments. The company continues to expect capital investments excluding mergers, acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, to be in the $2.8 to $3.0 billion range for the year, including those for Harris Teeter.

"We are accelerating core business growth and investing to create unique competitive positioning for today and the future," Mr. McMullen said. "Based on our strong quarter results, we raised our net earnings per diluted share and identical supermarket sales growth guidance for the year. We are well on our way to achieving a 13 — 15% net-earnings-per-diluted-share growth rate, including net accretion to earnings from the Harris Teeter merger, plus the dividend for fiscal 2014."

Kroger, one of the world's largest retailers, employs more than 375,000 associates who serve customers in 2,638 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, Harris Teeter, Jay C, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The company also operates 785 convenience stores, 324 fine jewelry stores, 1,271 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. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 200 million meals a year through more than 100 Feeding America food bank partners. A leader in supplier diversity, Kroger is a proud member of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber's Million Dollar Club.

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 statements that constitute "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 "expect," "believe," "guidance," "plans," "committed," "goal," "will" and "continue." Various uncertainties and other factors could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. These include the specific risk factors identified in "Risk Factors" and "Outlook" in our annual report on Form 10-K for our last fiscal year and any subsequent filings, as well as the following:

  • Our ability to achieve identical sales, earnings and cash flow goals may be affected by: labor negotiations or disputes; changes in the types and numbers of businesses that compete with us; pricing and promotional activities of existing and new competitors, including non-traditional competitors, and the aggressiveness of that competition; our response to these actions; the state of the economy, including interest rates, the inflationary and deflationary trends in certain commodities, and the unemployment rate; the effect that fuel costs have on consumer spending; volatility of fuel margins; changes in government-funded benefit programs; manufacturing commodity costs; diesel fuel costs related to our logistics operations; trends in consumer spending; the extent to which our customers exercise caution in their purchasing in response to economic conditions; the inconsistent pace of the economic recovery; changes in inflation or deflation in product and operating costs; stock repurchases; our ability to retain additional pharmacy sales from third party payors; consolidation in the healthcare industry, including pharmacy benefit managers; natural disasters or adverse weather conditions; the potential costs and risks associated with potential cyber-attacks and data security breaches; the success of our future growth plans; and the successful integration of Harris Teeter. The extent to which the adjustments we are making to our strategy create value for our shareholders will depend primarily on the reaction of our customers and our competitors to these adjustments, as well as operating conditions, including inflation or deflation, and increased competitive activity. Our ability to achieve sales and earnings goals may also be affected by our ability to manage the factors identified above.

  • Our ability to use free cash flow to continue to maintain our investment grade debt rating and repurchase shares, pay dividends, and fund capital investments, could be affected by unanticipated increases in net total debt, our inability to generate free cash flow at the levels anticipated, and our failure to generate expected earnings.

  • Our capital investments could differ from our estimate if we are unsuccessful in acquiring suitable sites for new stores, if development costs vary from those budgeted, if our logistics and technology or store projects are not completed on budget or within the time frame projected, or if economic conditions fail to improve, or worsen.

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 September 11, 2014 at ir.kroger.com. An on-demand replay of the webcast will be available from approximately 1 p.m. (ET) Thursday, September 11 through Thursday, September 25, 2014.