US grocer Kroger recorded an increase in net profit for the fourth quarter on the back of improving identical-store supermarket sales.

The company announced today (3 March) that net income was up 9.1% to US$278.8m during the quarter ended 29 January, while net sales rose 7.4% to reach $19.9bn.

Excluding fuel, identical supermarket sales were up 3.8% over the same period last year.

“Thanks to the Kroger team, we increased identical supermarket sales, gained more loyal customers and strengthened our competitive position among grocery retailers,” said Kroger chairman and CEO David Dillon.

For the full year, net earnings reached $1.12bn against $70m in the previous year. However, 2009’s results were impacted by asset impairment charges in the third quarter. Excluding the impact of these charges, net earnings would have been flat.

The retailer’s board also authorised an additional $1bn stock repurchase programme, an addition to the $500m stock repurchase programme announced in June 2010.

Shares in the retailer were up 0.83% to $49.9 a share at 12:20 ET.

Click here for Kroger’s full statement.