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Kroger comps softer than expected in 4Q

Kroger Co. on Thursday said non-fuel identical store sales in the fiscal fourth quarter improved by 3.7%, or 3.9% excluding the newly acquired Roundy's — a figure below the company's forecast and analyst estimates.

Total sales including fuel and Roundy’s increased 3.8% to $26.2 billion in the quarter. Net earnings for the quarter totaled $559 million, or 57 cents per diluted share.

While earnings exceeded Wall Street consensus estimates of 54 cents, the ID sales figure fell below the company's expected range of 4% to 4.5% and consensus analyst estimates of 4.4%. Non-fuel ID sales for the fiscal year improved by 5% for the fiscal year.

Cincinnati-based Kroger also Thursday said non-fuel ID sales for the fiscal year would be in the range of 2.5% to 3.5%, citing the expectation of lower inflation and the effect of having added Roundy's stores. Its annual earnings forecast of $2.19 to $2.28 per share is within its 8% to 11% growth range, while capital spending is expected to jump to $4.1 billion to $4.4 billion this year, up from $3.3 billion in 2015.

Kroger's stock was down by more 7% Thursday following the announcement.

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