We upgraded our recommendation on The Kroger Company (KR) to Outperform following the company's fourth-quarter 2011 results. The quarterly earnings of $0.50 per share beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate by a penny, and rose 8.7% from the prior-year quarter. Total revenue climbed 7.7% during the quarter. Kroger now expects fiscal 2012 earnings between $2.28 and $2.38 per share and forecasts identical supermarket sales (sans fuel) growth of 3% to 3.5%.
We believe that a dominant position among the nation's largest grocery retailers enables Kroger to sustain top-line growth, expand store base, and boost market share. The company is also well positioned to deliver higher earnings primarily through strong super market sales (sans fuel) growth.
Kroger is also actively managing its capital and returning much of its free cash to shareholders via share buybacks and dividends. Moreover, management continues to deploy capital to concentrate more on remodels, merchandising and other viable projects.
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