Supermarket chains Kroger Co. and Albertsons Inc. on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter results, with Kroger swinging to a profit from a year-ago loss and Albertsons' earnings declining 17 percent, weighed down by hefty charges.


Cincinnati, Ohio-based Kroger, the operator of Ralphs and Food 4 Less, reported fourth-quarter net income of $282.1 million (39 cents per share), compared with a loss of $652.1 million (89 cents) for the same period a year earlier. Year-ago results included an impairment charge of $903.8 million, pre-tax, that sent earnings plunging by $860.8 million ($1.17 per share). Fourth-quarter revenue rose 7.5 percent to $14.7 billion from $13.7 billion in the year-prior period.


Kroger's fourth-quarter results also were an improvement over its third-quarter, when the company reported net income of $185.4 million (25 cents per share) compared with $142.7 million (19 cents) in the year-prior quarter. Total sales increased 9.1 percent to $14 billion.


Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Inc., which in January agreed to sell the company to a consortium of investors for about $9.6 billion in cash and stock, saw its fourth-quarter profit drop due to declining sales.


The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $162 million (43 cents per share), compared with $194 million (52 cents) for the same period a year earlier. Earnings were driven down by a 3-cent-per-share charge associated with the company's exploration of strategic alternatives and 6 cents per share due to a change in the way in which it reflects early payment discounts related to merchandise purchases.


Revenue fell 8.1 percent to $10.2 billion from $11.1 billion in the year-prior period. Total comparable store sales decreased 0.3 percent and identical store sales decreased 0.4 percent for the quarter.


The latest quarter trumped its third-quarter results, when Albertsons' earnings fell to $77 million (21 cents per share) from $110 million (29 cents) a year earlier. Sales were flat from the prior year.


Kroger, and Albertsons, along with Safeway Inc., have been rebuilding their business since the 4 & #733;-month labor dispute at their southern California stores in 2003 and 2004 that sent many shoppers to alternative grocers, such as Cosco Wholesale Corp. and Trader Joe's.

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