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Kroger Reports First Quarter 2012 Results
Identical Supermarket Sales Up 4.2% Excluding Fuel
Company Raises Fiscal 2012 EPS Guidance to $2.33 to $2.40

CINCINNATI, Ohio, June 14, 2012 – The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) today reported total sales, including fuel, increased 5.8% to $29.1 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 compared with $27.5 billion for the same period last year. In the first quarter, which ended May 19, 2012, total sales, excluding fuel, increased 4.3% over the same period last year.

Identical supermarket sales, without fuel, increased 4.2% in the first quarter over the same period last year. This marks 34 consecutive quarters of positive identical supermarket sales for Kroger.

Net earnings for the first quarter totaled $439.4 million, or $0.78 per diluted share. Net earnings in the same period last year were $432.3 million, or $0.70 per diluted share.

Separately, the company today announced that the Board of Directors authorized a new $1 billion share repurchase program that replaces the prior authorization, which was exhausted on June 12, 2012.

“Kroger’s solid first quarter performance demonstrates that our Customer 1st strategy continues to resonate with customers,” said David B. Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Our core business is growing, and we are rewarding shareholders through earnings growth, increasing dividends over time and share buybacks.”

Details of First Quarter 2012 Results

FIFO gross margin was 20.70% of sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2012. Excluding retail fuel operations, FIFO gross margin decreased 53 basis points from the same period last year.

Kroger recorded a $46.0 million LIFO charge in the first quarters of both 2012 and 2011.

Operating, general and administrative (OG&A) costs were 15.36% of sales. Excluding retail fuel operations, OG&A decreased 27 basis points from the same period last year. Including rent and depreciation, it was a 40 basis point reduction. The benefits of sales leverage, strong cost control and execution more than offset rising health care costs and credit card fees.

Excluding fuel, on a rolling four quarters basis the company’s FIFO operating margin decreased 11 basis points. Kroger continues to expect slightly increasing FIFO operating margin, excluding fuel, for the full 2012 fiscal year.

Financial Strategy

Kroger’s strong free cash flow allowed the company to return more than $1.6 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends over the last four quarters. During the first quarter, Kroger repurchased 14.6 million common shares for a total investment of $345.3 million.

Capital investment, excluding acquisitions and purchases of leased facilities, totaled $539.1 million for the first quarter, compared with $573.1 million for the same period last year.

Net total debt was $7.8 billion, an increase of $662.1 million from a year ago. The increase is primarily the result of the issuance of debt to fund the UFCW pension plan consolidation. On a rolling four quarters basis, Kroger’s net total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio was 1.91 compared with 1.79 during the same period last year.

Fiscal 2012 Guidance

Based on the strong results in the first quarter, the company increased its earnings per share guidance to $2.33 to $2.40 per diluted share for fiscal 2012. The original guidance was $2.28 to $2.38 per diluted share.

Kroger continues to expect identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, of 3.0% to 3.5%. In accordance with original guidance, this includes the expected negative effect on sales from prescription drugs coming off patent.

“We were very pleased with the results of the first quarter. We exceeded our expectations, and as a result raised our earnings per share guidance for the year.” Mr. Dillon said. “Through our focus on the customer, we will continue to stand out among food retailers, and drive loyalty, cash flow and earnings growth in 2012 and beyond.”

Kroger, one of the world’s largest retailers, employs more than 339,000 associates who serve customers in 2,425 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 789 convenience stores, 337 fine jewelry stores, 1,109 supermarket fuel centers and 38 food processing plants in the U.S. Recognized by Forbes as the most generous company in America, Kroger supports hunger relief, breast cancer awareness, the military and their families, and more than 30,000 schools and grassroots organizations in the communities it serves. Kroger contributes food and funds equal to 160 million meals a year through more than 80 Feeding America food bank partners. For more information please visit 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 "expect" and "guidance." 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 identical supermarket 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; and the benefits that we receive from the consolidation of the UFCW pension plans. 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 FIFO operating margin will be affected by changes in product costs during the year, if our estimates of product cost changes or the timing of those changes prove incorrect, and if competitive or other factors cause our margins on product sold to fail to meet our objectives. 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 14, 2012 at www.thekrogerco.com. An on-demand replay of the webcast will be available from approximately 1 p.m. (ET) Thursday, June 14 through Thursday, June 28, 2012.

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View 1st Quarter 2012 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


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

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