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Kroger Reports First Quarter 2011 Results

Identical Supermarket Sales Increased 4.6% without Fuel

Fiscal 2011 Guidance Increased

CINCINNATI, Ohio, June 16, 2011 – The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) today reported total sales, including fuel, increased 11.0% to $27.5 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2011 compared with $24.7 billion for the same period last year. In the first quarter, which ended May 21, 2011, total sales, excluding fuel, increased 4.8% over the same period last year.

Identical supermarket sales, without fuel, increased 4.6% in the first quarter over the same period last year. This marks 30 consecutive quarters of identical supermarket sales increases for Kroger.

Net earnings for the first quarter totaled $432.3 million, or $0.70 per diluted share. Net earnings in the same period last year were $373.7 million, or $0.58 per diluted share.

“Our Customer 1st strategy is clearly connecting with customers,” said David B. Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We have shown that our focus on people, products, prices and the shopping experience is meaningful to customers through both good and challenging times. As a result, we achieved strong performance across the company.”

Details of First Quarter 2011 Results

FIFO gross margin was 21.42% of sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2011. Excluding retail fuel operations, FIFO gross margin decreased 4 basis points from the same period last year. Supermarket selling gross margin declined 7 basis points without fuel from the same period last year.

Kroger recorded a $46.0 million LIFO charge during the quarter compared to $15.4 million last year. Kroger also increased its estimated LIFO charge for the year to $150 million from the original estimate of $50 million to $75 million.

Operating, general and administrative (OG&A) costs were 15.76% of sales. Excluding retail fuel operations, OG&A decreased 36 basis points from the same period last year. The benefits of leverage from strong sales, productivity improvements and outstanding cost control more than offset rising credit card fees, health care and pension costs.

First quarter operating margin was 2.95% of sales. Excluding fuel, on a rolling four quarters basis the company’s operating margin increased by 12 basis points.

Financial Strategy

Capital investment, excluding acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, totaled $573.1 million for the first quarter, compared with $532.2 million for the same period last year.

Net total debt was $7.1 billion, an increase of $47.3 million from a year ago. On a rolling four quarters basis, Kroger’s net total debt to EBITDA ratio, adjusted for impairment charges in 2010 and 2009, was 1.79 compared with 1.91 during the same period last year.

Strong cash flow enabled Kroger to invest $544.3 million to repurchase 23.1 million shares of stock at an average price of $23.55 per share during the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, approximately $602.7 million remained under the $1 billion stock repurchase program announced in March 2011.

Fiscal 2011 Guidance

Kroger updated its identical supermarket sales and earnings guidance for fiscal 2011. The company now expects identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, of 3.5% to 4.5% for the year. The previous guidance range was 3% to 4%.

For the full year, Kroger increased its earnings guidance to $1.85 to $1.95 per diluted share. Based on the current operating environment, the company expects to achieve results near the top end of this range. The increase reflects the strength of the company’s first quarter results and the higher estimated LIFO charge. The original guidance was $1.80 to $1.92 per diluted share.

“Our guidance for the year reflects the balance we strive to achieve across our business – including strong identical sales growth and outstanding cost control, as well as increased earnings and earnings per share,” Mr. Dillon said. “Our Customer 1st strategy will drive increased sales, cash flow and earnings growth well into the future.”

Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocery retailer, employs more than 338,000 associates who serve customers in 2,449 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's. The company also operates 785 convenience stores, 359 fine jewelry stores, 1,035 supermarket fuel centers and 40 food processing plants in the U.S. Kroger, headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, focuses its charitable efforts on supporting hunger relief, health and wellness initiatives, and local organizations in the communities it serves. For more information about Kroger, please visit www.kroger.com.

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Note: Fuel sales have historically had a low FIFO gross margin rate and OG&A rate as compared to corresponding rates on non-fuel sales. As a result, in addition to disclosing such rates including the effect of retail fuel operations, Kroger also discusses the changes in these rates excluding the effect of retail fuel operations.

This press release contains certain forward-looking statements about the future performance of the company. These statements are based on management’s assumptions and beliefs in light of the information currently available to it. These statements are indicated by words such as “expects,” “increased,” “guidance,” “estimated,” “will,” and “updated.” Aggressive competition, economic conditions, interest rates, goodwill impairment, the success of programs designed to increase our identical supermarket sales without fuel, the impact of increasing fuel costs on consumer spending, and labor disputes, particularly as the company seeks to manage increases in health care and pension costs, could materially affect our expected identical supermarket sales growth and earnings per share. Earnings per share also will be affected by the number of shares outstanding and volatility in the company’s fuel margins. Earnings and sales also may be affected by adverse weather conditions, particularly to the extent that hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other conditions disrupt our operations or those of our suppliers; create shortages in the availability or increases in the cost of products that we sell in our stores or materials and ingredients we use in our manufacturing facilities; or raise the cost of supplying energy to our various operations, including the cost of transportation. Our results also will be affected by rising commodity costs, the inconsistency of the economic recovery, consumer confidence, changes in government-funded benefit programs, and changes in inflation or deflation in product and operating costs. Our LIFO charge and the timing of our recognition of LIFO expense will be affected by changes in product costs during the year. Our ability to increase cash flow will be affected by all of the factors identified above. These forward-looking statements are subject to uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially. We assume no obligation to update the information contained herein. Please refer to Kroger’s reports and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a further discussion of these risks and uncertainties.

Note: Kroger’s quarterly conference call with investors will be broadcast live online at 10 a.m. (ET) on June 16, 2011 at www.kroger.com. An on-demand replay of the webcast will be available from approximately 1 p.m. (ET) Thursday, June 16 through Thursday, June 30, 2011.

View 1st Quarter 2011 Reports - PDF Format:

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS

CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETS

CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS

SUPPLEMENTAL SALES INFORMATION

RECONCILIATION OF TOTAL DEBT TO NET TOTAL DEBT

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Kroger Contacts:
Media: Keith Dailey (513) 762-1304
Investors: Cindy Holmes (513) 762-4969

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