Kroger board approves $500M buyback; declares quarterly dividend of 16.5 cents per share

Kroger's board has approved a $500 million stock buyback, the supermarket chain announced on the day of its annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati.

The buyback replaces a previous approval that had been used up. The company said it bought back 25.7 million shares for $1.1 billion in its fiscal first quarter. It doesn't expect to make any more significant purchases the rest of the year but said actual purchases will depend on market conditions.

The Cincinnati company said it returned more than $1.9 billion to stockholders through buybacks and dividends over the past four quarters. It has returned about $11 billion to stockholders through share repurchases since January 2000.

The nation's largest supermarket operator also declared a quarterly dividend of 16.5 cents per share. Kroger Co. — which runs Ralphs, Fry's and other chains — said Thursday that the dividend will be paid on Sept. 1 to shareholders of record on Aug. 15.

Last week Kroger reported a 4 percent rise in its first-quarter profit and increased its full-year earnings forecast.

Shares of Kroger added 11 cents to $49.33 in morning trading.