How Pandemic, New Buybacks Affect Kroger Stock Price

Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) reported fiscal second-quarter 2020 results before markets opened Thursday. The supermarket giant posted adjusted diluted net earnings per share (EPS) of $0.73 on total revenues of $30.5 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.44 on total revenues of $28.2 billion. Second-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.55 and $29.95 billion in revenues.

Same-store sales, excluding fuel sales, rose by 14.6% year over year to $27.76 billion, and gross margin rose to 22.8%.

Kroger repurchased shares worth $211 million under its $1 billion board authorization announced last November. Friday morning, the company’s board authorized a new $1 billion share repurchase program, replacing the prior authorization.

The company also updated guidance for its 2020 fiscal year. Same-store sales are now expected to rise by more than 13%, and adjusted EPS is forecast to rise by 45% to 50% to a range of $3.20 to $3.30. Adjusted free cash flow is pegged at $2.5 billion to $2.7 billion, and share buybacks for the year are expected to fall in a range of $600 million to $1 billion.

Kroger’s operating, general and administrative expenses fell by 61 basis points, excluding fuel sales and adjustments. The company attributed the decline to sales leverage and execution on its Restock Kroger initiatives, partially offset by further investments related to keeping employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital sales rose by 127%. Chief Financial Officer Gary Millerchip commented that the company believes its fiscal 2021 results “will be higher than we would have expected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The stock was down about 3% early Friday, at $34.30 in a 52-week range of $23.71 to $37.22. The consensus 12-month price target is $36.34.

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