Kroger 4Q Profit Up 9%, Authorizes $1B Buyback Plan

Kroger (NYSE:KR) revealed on Thursday a stronger-than-expected 9% increase in fourth-quarter profit and declared a $1 billion share buyback program.

The Cincinnati-based company posted net earnings of $278.8 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with $255.4 million, or 39 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding a goodwill impairment charge, the company earned 46 cents a share, ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of 44 cents.

Revenue for the leading supermarket and department store operator was $19.9 billion, up 7.4% from $18.6 billion a year ago, beating the Street’s view of $19.38 billion.

“Our customers appreciate the distinct blend of friendly service, variety and value that Kroger's family of stores offers, and our strong fourth quarter results show we are on the right path,” said David Dillon, the company’s chief executive.

Also on Thursday, the company’s board authorized a new $1 billion stock repurchase program. During fiscal 2011, Kroger said it plans to use cash flow from operation and cash on hand to fund capital expenditures, repay debt maturing on April 1, repurchase shares, pay dividends and maintain its current debt rating.

Since January 2000, the company has returned $6.5 billion in stock repurchases to shareholders and paid $1.1 billion in dividends.