Kroger: Q2 earnings preview

The grocery retailer is expected to show growth of 19.5%.

By Zacks.com Sep 5, 2012 12:32PM

Full Shopping Cart in Grocery Store copyright Fuse, Getty ImagesBy Zacks Equity Research

 

The Kroger Company (KR), one of the largest grocery retailers and an S&P 500 company, is slated to report its second-quarter 2012 financial results on Sept. 7.


The current Zacks consensus estimate for the quarter is pegged at 49 cents a share, which reflects a growth of 19.5% from the prior-year quarter's earnings.


The current Zacks consensus estimates range between a low of 46 cents and a high of 53 cents a share. The Zacks consensus estimates second-quarter revenue to come in at $21,983 million.


Recap of first-quarter 2012

Kroger's quarterly earnings of 78 cents a share beat the Zacks consensus estimate of 72 cents, and rose 11.4% from 70 cents earned in the prior-year quarter.


Total revenue (including fuel center sales) climbed 5.8% year on year to $29,064.8 million, but fell short of the Zacks consensus estimate of $29,194 million.


Excluding fuel center sales, total revenue rose 4.3% and identical supermarket sales (stores that are open without expansion or relocation for five full quarters) climbed 4.2% to $21,652.7 million, marking the 34th successive quarter of increase. Including fuel center sales, identical supermarket sales jumped 5.5% to $26,100.6 million.


Management guided

During its last earnings call, the Cincinnati company raised its fiscal 2012 earnings outlook. Management now expects fiscal 2012 earnings between $2.33 and $2.40 per share, up from a range of $2.28 to $2.38 forecasted earlier.


Kroger, which faces stiff competition from Wal-Mart Stores (WMT)and Whole Foods (WFM), also predicted identical supermarket sales (excluding fuel) growth between 3% to 3.5% for fiscal 2012, including the anticipated adverse impact from prescription drugs coming off patent.


Zacks agreement and magnitude

The Zacks consensus estimate did not show any movement in the last seven and 30 days, as the revisions made by one of 18 analysts covering the stock in the said time frame did not have a material impact. None of the analysts lowered their estimates.


Mixed earnings surprise history

With respect to earnings surprises, Kroger has missed as well as topped the Zacks consensus estimates over the last four quarters in the range of negative 4.7% to positive 8.3%. The average remained at 3%, suggesting that Kroger has outpaced the Zacks consensus estimate by the same magnitude in the trailing four quarters.


In the second quarter of fiscal 2011, the earnings missed the Zacks consensus estimate by 4.7%, whereas in the third and fourth quarters it beat the estimate by 6.5% and 2%, respectively. In the first quarter of fiscal 2012, the earnings topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 8.3%.


In conclusion

A dominant position among the nation's largest grocery retailers enables Kroger to sustain growth in the top line, expand its store base and boost its market share. The company's strong corporate and national brands help win customer loyalty.


The company's customer-centric business model provides a strong value proposition to consumers, and positions it well to deliver higher earnings, primarily through strong identical supermarket sales growth (excluding fuel).


Management continues to deploy capital to concentrate more on remodeling, merchandising and other viable projects. These include nearly 40 to 50 major capital projects comprising opening of new stores, expansions and relocations, and 125 to 140 remodels. Management expects fiscal 2012 capital expenditures in the range of $1.9 billion to $2.2 billion.


The grocery business is highly competitive and fragmented, and Kroger faces intense competition from big players, like Supervalu Inc. (SVU) as well as other conventional and specialty gourmet retailers with respect to price, store expansion, and promotional activities to drive traffic. This might dent the company’s sales and margins.


Kroger ended first-quarter 2012 with a long-term debt (including obligations under capital leases and financial obligations) of $8,105.9 million, reflecting a debt-to-capitalization ratio of 66.6%, which is substantially higher, and could adversely affect the company's credit worthiness and make it more susceptible to macro-economic factors and competitive pressures.


Currently, we have a long-term "neutral" recommendation on the stock. However, Kroger's shares maintain a Zacks No. 2 Rank that translates into a short-term "buy" rating.


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