REUTERS

(REUTERS)

Kroger's quarterly profit rises 9 pct

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Kroger Co <KR.N>, the biggest U.S. supermarket operator, raised its full-year profit forecast and reported a better-than-expected 9 percent rise in quarterly profit, helped by the acquisition of grocer Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc.

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Shares of Kroger, which owns the Ralphs, Smith's and Food 4 Less grocery chains and supplement seller Vitacost.com, rose as much as 1.3 percent to $52.57 in early trading.

Kroger completed the $2.5 billion acquisition of North Carolina-based Harris Teeter on Jan. 29, adding more than 200 supermarkets, mostly in the U.S. southeast.

Its roughly $280 million acquisition of online vitamin and supplements seller Vitacost.com closed on Aug. 18.

Kroger raised its adjusted earnings forecast for the year ending January to $3.22-$3.28 per share from $3.19-$3.27.

Analysts on average were expecting full-year profit of $3.28 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

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The company also raised its forecast for same-store sales, excluding fuel, to 3.50-4.25 percent from 3-4 percent at supermarkets open without expansion or relocation for five quarters.

Kroger, whose rivals include Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N>, Safeway Inc <SWY.N> and Whole Foods Market Inc <WFM.O>, is seen as one of the top performers in the hyper-competitive U.S. supermarket industry.

Up to Wednesday's close, Kroger's shares had jumped 31.2 percent this year, outperforming the S&P 500 Food Retail Index <.SPLRCRETF>, which rose 1.4 percent.

Net income attributable to Kroger rose to $347 million, or 70 cents per share, in the second quarter ended Aug. 16 from $317 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total sales rose 12 percent to $25.3 billion.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 69 cents per share and sales of $24.92 billion.

Same-store sales, excluding fuel, were up 4.8 percent, higher than the 4.2 percent increase analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected.