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Kroger Raises Full-Year Guidance on Strong Q1 Results; Shares Jump 4%

The Kroger Co. (KR) reported stronger-than-expected Q1 results, topping both earnings and revenue estimates, driven by accelerating growth in digital sales. Shares of the American retailer gained 4.3% on Thursday at the close.

The company reported adjusted earnings of $1.19 per share, beating analysts’ expectations of $1.01 per share. Revenues of $41.3 billion also exceeded the consensus estimate of $39.78 billion.

Meanwhile, revenues declined 0.5% on a year-over-year basis. The company reported earnings of $1.22 per share in the prior-year period.

Digital sales grew 16% year-over-year, whereas it grew 108% on a 2-year stack basis. However, identical sales, ex-fuel, declined 4.1% year-over-year but increased 14.9% on a 2-year stack basis. (See KR stock chart on TipRanks)

Following the Q1 results, the company raised its guidance for full-year 2021. The company now forecasts adjusted earnings in the range of $2.95 to $3.10 per share, while the consensus estimate is pegged at $2.85 per share. The 2-year identical sales stack is projected to grow between 10.1% and 11.6%.

The Board of Directors approved a new share repurchase authorization worth $1 billion in line with the company’s commitment to delivering strong shareholder returns of 8-11%. The prior authorization expired last week.

Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen commented,Kroger’s strong execution delivered identical sales results in the first quarter that exceeded our original expectations. Customers are responding to the investments we have made in digital, as evidenced by our triple-digit growth in digital sales since the beginning of 2019. We were disciplined in driving costs out of the business and we achieved record growth in Kroger’s alternative profit business, demonstrating the power and attractiveness of our long-term model.”

Following the robust Q1 results, Wells Fargo analyst Edward Kelly reiterated a Hold rating on the stock.

Kelly believes that Kroger’s risk/reward is balanced at current levels, and the updated guidance should reduce investors’ rising concerns regarding COVID-related share loss and inflation pass-through.

Overall, the stock has a Moderate Sell consensus rating based on 5 Holds and 3 Sells. The KR average analyst price target of $35.60 implies 9.1% downside potential from current levels.

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