US grocery retailer Kroger has reported lower quarterly profit as it struggled with higher operating costs and fierce competition from US retail giant Wal-Mart.

The Cincinnati-based company reported a profit of US$190.4m, or 25 cents a share, for the second quarter to 16 August, compared to $264.0m, or 33 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had been expecting, on average, profit of 32 cents a share.

Kroger said the results included an after-tax charge of five cents per share to resolve disputes related to energy supply arrangements with Dynergy, and a one cent per share expense related to the August blackout that affected parts of North America.

Kroger forecast 2003 earnings per share at the low end of its $1.50 to $1.58 range and said earnings could be as much as five cents below that range, due to the difficult economic climate and competition, reported Reuters.