The Kroger Company
) recently upped its long term earnings per share growth target to
8% to 11% (excluding its current dividend of 2.5%) from its earlier
target of 6% to 8%.
The company will largely focus on increasing return on invested
capital and will bring in operating efficiencies through cost
containment to enhance profitability. In order to support its
growth strategy, the company will boost its capital spending by an
incremental $200 million annually to concentrate more on store
expansions into existing and newer markets and other viable
Moreover, to provide cushion to its earnings, the company announced
a new $500 million share repurchase program, overriding its
existing program which had about $340 million remaining under the
Kroger's management is actively handling its capital, returning
much of its free cash to shareholders via share buybacks and
dividends. Kroger recently raised its quarterly dividend by 30%,
bringing the annualized payout to 60 cents a share from the earlier
level of 46 cents. This marks the sixth consecutive annual increase
in Kroger's quarterly dividend since it reinstated dividend payment
in the year 2006.
During the recently concluded quarter, Kroger bought back 23.7
million shares for an aggregate amount of $525 million. The
company's healthy free cash flow generating ability has facilitated
it to return over $1.9 billion to stakeholders via dividends and
share repurchases in the trailing four quarters.
Going ahead, the company stood by its earlier guidance and
envisions fiscal 2012 earnings between $2.35 and $2.42 per share.
Management expects to attain the higher end of the guidance range.
The Zacks Consensus Estimate stands at $2.40 for fiscal 2012.
Kroger also reiterated its identical supermarket sales (excluding
fuel) growth guidance of 3% to 3.5% for fiscal 2012.
We believe Kroger's customer-centric business model provides a
strong value proposition to consumers, and is well positioned to
deliver higher earnings primarily through strong identical
supermarket sales growth (sans fuel). Moreover, the company's
Customer 1st strategy is benefiting the company.
Kroger's shares maintain a Zacks #2 Rank that translates into a
short-term 'Buy' rating, and well defines the company's healthy
performances and upbeat guidance.
However, due to the current macroeconomic environment and intense
price competition from
Wal-Mart Stores Inc
), we maintain a long-term 'Neutral' recommendation on the stock.
KROGER CO (KR): Free Stock Analysis Report
WAL-MART STORES (WMT): Free Stock Analysis
To read this article on Zacks.com click here.