US retail giant Kroger has insisted it is not interested in being acquired in a leveraged buy-out by a private equity group.

Kroger, which runs almost 2,500 outlets across the US, issued the rebuttal after claims in the Wall Street Journal that the company might become a private equity target.

Chairman and CEO David Dillon said he was unsurprised by the speculation in a climate where private equity funds are awash with capital.

"With the ready availability of significant capital in private equity funds and Kroger's attractiveness as a franchise, rumours and speculation are not surprising," Dillon said on Friday (6 April).

"Unfortunately, the kind of speculation contained in the article can be disruptive to our associates and to the conduct of our business. Neither management nor our Board of Directors has any interest in pursuing a leveraged buy-out transaction."

Kroger runs outlets under banners including Ralphs, Dillons and Food 4 Less. Last month, the company posted 1 36% leap in earnings during the final quarter of 2006. Revenue for the three months to 31 December rose 15% to US$16.9bn.