US grocery retailer Kroger saw its shares plummet today (2 December) even after the company reported rising third-quarter sales and underlying earnings.

Shares in the retailer were fell more than 9% despite the retailer recording a 3.1% increase in sales, excluding fuel, and a 14% increase in underlying earnings for the quarter to 6 November.

Kroger’s identical-store sales, excluding fuel, were up 2.4% against the same period last year, while operating margin increased six basis points.

The retailer’s net earnings reached US$202.2m against a $874.9m loss in the same period last year. Kroger said the 2009 result included a $1.05bn write down. Excluding the 2009 impairment charges, net earnings would have been $176.7m, which would have meant a 14.4% net earnings increase.

Nevertheless, Kroger’s shares dropped 9.4% to US$21.62 at 12:23 ET.

“Our team increased identical supermarket sales, earnings and earnings per share in the third quarter while controlling expenses to keep prices low for our customers. These results show Kroger’s strategy is working and that our core grocery business is strong and resilient,” Kroger CEO David Dillon insisted.

The company narrowed its guidance for annual identical supermarket sales for the fiscal year. It predicted growth would range from 2.5% to 3%, against previous guidance of 2.0% to 3%.

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Kroger, meanwhile, reduced its forecast for capital expenditure. It now expects to invest $1.8-2bn in capital projects against earlier guidance of $1.9-2.1bn.

Click here for the company’s full earnings statement. Please check back later for further insight into the retailer’s results.