US supermarket group Kroger booked a dip in third-quarter net earnings today (9 December), despite sales gains, due to costs related to Hurricane Ike.

Total sales rose 9% to US$17.6bn in the quarter ended 8 November, while ID sales grew 5.6%, excluding fuel.

"Kroger's sales continue to be strong in this tough economy. We know our customers are increasingly feeling pressured in today's environment. Kroger's focus on low prices, quality products and providing a convenient, one-stop solution for their daily needs is resonating with our customers," said David Dillon, Kroger chairman and chief executive officer.

However, net earnings for the period fell on a $15.9m charge related to damage caused by Hurricane Ike. Earnings dipped to $237.7m, down from $253.8m reported for the comparable period of last year.

During the first three quarters of fiscal 2008, total sales increased 10.9% to $58.7bn over the same period last year. Identical supermarket sales, excluding fuel, increased 5.4% compared with the same period a year ago.

Net earnings for the first three quarters of fiscal 2008 were $900.2m, up from net earnings for the same period last year were $857.6m.

Looking to the full year, Kroger said that it anticipates 4.5% to 5.5% ID sales growth, excluding fuel. The company raised its fiscal 2008 earnings per share guidance and said it expects full-year earnings of $1.88 to $1.91 per diluted share, excluding the $0.03 per share charge related to the hurricane.