US grocer Kroger has reported earnings of US$0.34 per diluted share, before one-time items, for the third quarter ended 9 November 2002.

On this basis, and adjusting prior-year results to eliminate goodwill amortisation, earnings per diluted share for the third quarter of 2002 were equal to the year-ago period. Net earnings for the third quarter of 2002 were $263.0m, a decrease of 6.6% from a year ago.

Total sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2002 increased 2.8% to $11.7bn. Total food-store sales rose 2.7%. Identical food-store sales, including fuel, decreased 0.6%. Identical food-store sales, excluding fuel, declined 1.3%. Comparable food-store sales, which include relocations and expansions, rose 0.2% for the quarter. Comparable food-store sales excluding fuel declined 0.6%.

EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation, LIFO, extraordinary and one-time items) for the third quarter of 2002 totalled $803.8m, a decrease of 3.7% from a year ago.
Joseph A. Pichler, company chairman and CEO, said that consumers remained cautious in their spending and that the combination of a weak economy, rising unemployment, product cost deflation and continued aggressive competition had created a difficult operating environment.

Pichler’s outlook for the coming year was not particularly encouraging: “It is not clear when consumer confidence will improve. In addition, we anticipate that health care and pension costs will increase substantially in 2003.”