US retailer Kroger has posted a total sales increase of 4.8% to US$14.7bn for the third quarter of 2006. Same-store sales increased 4.9% with fuel and 5.3% without fuel.

The company's net earnings totalled $214.7m, or $0.30 per diluted share, compared to $185.4m, or $0.25 per diluted share, last year.

"Our associates continue to put customers first as Kroger's third quarter performance indicates," said David Dillon, Kroger chairman and chief executive officer. "These results once again demonstrate Kroger's ability to consistently deliver strong, sustainable growth over time."

Kroger repurchased 10.2m shares of stock at an average price of $22.79 for a total investment of $232.0m
 
Total debt was $7.0bn at the chain, a reduction of $299.1m from a year ago.
During the first three quarters of fiscal 2006, total sales at Kroger increased 7.5% to $49.3bn.

The company now anticipates that identical supermarket sales growth will exceed 5.0% for the fourth quarter, excluding fuel. Kroger also raised its guidance for earnings per share growth in fiscal 2006 to 8-10% from 6-8%.

"Kroger's performance shows consistent improvement as our associates execute our business strategy. This allows us to be competitive in every aspect of our business and generate value for shareholders," Dillon said. "Our associates continue to place a priority on serving customers. These results clearly show what we can achieve by focusing on improving the service, product selection, quality and pricing we offer customers throughout the year."