US grocery retailer Kroger Co has announced a rise in sales for the fourth quarter ended 29 January 2004, but also a sharp rise in its net loss.

Total sales for the fourth quarter of 2004 increased 5.1% to $13.7 bn. "This growth resulted from strong sales at the company's food stores, including fuel, as well as from the convenience and jewellery stores," the company said. "Net square footage at the Company's food stores increased 1.2%."

Kroger reported a net loss of $675.9m in the quarter. In the year-ago period, Kroger reported a net loss of $337.4m.

For the full 2004 fiscal year, sales increased 4.9% to $56.4bn. Kroger reported a net loss of $128.0m.

"We are very pleased with our sales performance in the fourth quarter. Kroger's identical food-store sales, without the effect of fuel and southern California, have shown sequential improvement for seven of the past eight quarters." said chairman and CEO David B. Dillon. "This momentum has continued in fiscal 2005, with identical food-store sales through the first five weeks running ahead of our fourth-quarter results."