Kroger Co. (KR) posts solid earnings results

Shares up more than 5 percent before the bell

CINCINNATI - The Kroger Co. reported a $501 million profit on revenue of $32.96 billion in its its first quarter, exceeding Wall Street expectations on revenue and profits and raising its earnings guidance for the full year.

It's the 42nd consecutive quarter in which Kroger has reported an increase in identical-store sales.

Investors responded immediately to the news, with shares surging more than 5 percent to $49.95 in pre-market trading.

“Our strong first quarter results set us up to deliver a 12-15% net earnings growth rate for the year, partly due to the benefit of Harris Teeter, compared to our long-term growth rate of 8-11% plus the growing dividend," said Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen in a press release. "We are pleased to start the year with growth momentum while also returning $1.1 billion in cash back to shareholders this quarter through our buyback program.”

Investors were expecting a profit of $1.05 per share from Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocery store operator, which is now on pace to exceed $100 million in revenue this year. Excluding a one-time adjustment for a $56 million pension contribution, the company posted earnings per share of $1.09. Revenue exceeded Wall Street estimates by $370 million.

The company raised and narrowed its adjusted net earnings guidance to a range of $3.19 to $3.27 per diluted share for fiscal 2014. The original guidance was $3.14 to $3.25 per diluted share.

Kroger's full earnings release can be found here .