Fitch Affirms Kroger Ratings

CHICAGO — Fitch Ratings here said Monday it has affirmed the ratings on certain Kroger Co. [3] debt, citing its strong financial metrics.

Fitch affirmed Kroger's long-term issuer default rating at "BBB" and its commercial paper rating at "F2," with a stable outlook.

The ratings agency said the affirmation reflects Kroger's industry-leading sales growth and market-share gains, strong cash flow and steady credit metrics, along with the company's moderate financial leverage — $8.1 billion of debt outstanding, including capital leases — ongoing share repurchase activity and intense price competition that it expects will continue to pressure gross margins.

Fitch also said it views Kroger's new growth strategy — which calls for 8% to 11% annual growth in earnings per share, compared with a previous target of 6% to 8% — as neutral from a credit perspective.

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