Kroger reports $675.9 million loss

/ Source: The Associated Press

Kroger Co. on Tuesday reported a $675.9 million loss for its fourth quarter as the supermarket chain wrote down the value of two of its brands.

Kroger, one of the nation's largest retail grocers with operations in 32 states, said the loss of 93 cents a share for the quarter that ended Jan. 29 included an $884 million after tax charge, or $1.21 a share, for writing down the value of the company's Ralphs and Food 4 Less operations in southern California.

Sales for the latest quarter increased 5 percent to $13.7 billion, up from $13 billion a year earlier.

Excluding the writedown, Kroger would have earned 28 cents per share for the quarter, 7 cents below estimates of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

In the fourth quarter of 2003, Kroger lost $337.4 million, or 45 cents per share. These results included writedowns that reduced net earnings by $663.1 million, or 89 cents per share.

The results for the fourth quarter were preliminary and do not include any charges related to a change in accounting practices on leases. Kroger said on Monday that it would reduce its earnings for 2001, 2002 and 2003 because of the change.

Kroger is one of many retailers that said they will be restating earnings because of the change.

For all of 2004, Kroger lost $128 million, or 17 cents per share, including expenses that reduced net earnings by $981 million, or $1.33 per share.

In the prior year, net earnings were $314.6 million, or 42 cents per share. Those results included expenses that reduced net earnings by $801.3 million, or $1.06 per share.

The Cincinnati-based company operates 2,532 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 32 states under the names Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, King Soopers, Smiths, Frys, Frys Marketplace, Dillons, QFC and City Market. Kroger also operates 795 convenience stores, 436 jewelry stores, 536 supermarket fuel centers and 42 food processing plants.