Why Kroger's Q4 Isn't Measuring Up

Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) reported its fiscal fourth-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Thursday. The grocery chain said that it had $0.57 in earnings per share (EPS) and $28.9 billion in revenue, which compares with consensus estimates that called for $0.55 in EPS and $28.83 billion in revenue. The same period of last year reportedly had $0.48 in EPS and $28.09 billion in revenue.

During the most recent quarter, identical sales without fuel grew 2.0% year over year and digital sales grew 22%.

The company expanded its footprint to 1,989 pickup locations and 2,385 delivery locations, covering over 97% of Kroger households.

Looking ahead to the 2020 fiscal full year, the company expects to see EPS in the range of $2.30 to $2.40, with identical sales increasing more than 2.25%. Consensus estimates call for $2.33 in EPS and $125.39 billion in revenue for the year.

Consistent with its financial strategy, Kroger reduced net total debt by $1.1 billion over the past four quarters. Kroger’s net total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio is 2.48, compared to 2.83 a year ago. The company’s net total debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio target range is 2.30 to 2.50.

Rodney McMullen, board chair and chief executive, commented:

We are pleased with our 2019 results and improving trends in our supermarket business. We delivered on our commitments for ID sales without fuel, adjusted FIFO operating profit, and cost savings in addition to generating over $100 million of incremental operating profit through alternative profit streams in 2019. We also delivered strong adjusted free cash flow during the year, consistent with the total shareholder return model outlined at our Investor Day.

Kroger stock traded up fractionally at $31.20 early Thursday, in a 52-week range of $20.70 to $30.97. The consensus price target is $28.67.