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CINCINNATI -- The Kroger Co. reported net earnings of $110.2 million, or 15 cents per diluted share, for the third quarter ended Nov. 8, 2003 -- estimating the ongoing labor disputes affecting stores in Southern California and the West Virginia area reduced earnings by 12 cents per diluted share during the quarter. Premiums paid on debt repurchases reduced earnings by 0.01 cents per diluted share, the company reported.
"We are pleased with our sales performance in the third quarter, especially in light of the current operating environment," said David B. Dillon, CEO of Kroger. "In the fourth quarter to date, our identical food-store sales, excluding fuel and the effect of the labor disputes, are running slightly ahead of our results for the third quarter."
Total sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2003 increased 3.8 percent to $12.1 billion, including stores affected by the labor disputes. On this basis, identical food-store sales, including fuel, increased 0.2 percent and, excluding fuel, decreased 0.6 percent.
The estimated effect on net earnings of 12 cents per diluted share from the labor disputes assumes that the Ralphs stores in Southern California and the Kroger stores in the West Virginia area that were adversely affected by the labor disputes, as well as the Food 4 Less stores that were favorably affected, would have maintained their pre-strike operating trends for the balance of the quarter, according to the company. The estimate also includes the company's expected obligation for the quarter under an agreement with Safeway Inc. and Albertson's Inc. that was entered into in connection with the multi-employer collective bargaining arrangement in southern California.
"It is not possible to say when these disputes will be resolved, but we remain committed to providing our employees with excellent wage and benefit programs that also better position Kroger to face the challenges of a rapidly changing competitive landscape," Dillon added.
However, the company issued the following statement today, regarding the labor disputes: "Through the offices of federal mediation, the parties have reached an understanding concerning issues surrounding the work stoppage that will be presented to the employees on Thursday, Dec. 11, for their vote."