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Kroger reports third-quarter results

BY Allison Cerra

CINCINNATI Cincinnati-based grocer chain Kroger reported a net loss for the third quarter of $874.9 million, or $1.35 per diluted share, the company reported Tuesday.

These results include noncash asset impairment charges totaling $1.05 billion, after-tax, that primarily resulted from a goodwill write-down at the company’s Ralphs division in southern California, the company noted in a release. Excluding these impairment charges, net earnings for the quarter would have been $176.7 million, or 27 cents per diluted share. Net earnings in the same period last year were $237.7 million, or 36 cents per diluted share.

The silver lining, however, is that Kroger reported that its same-store sales for third quarter 2009 increased 1.3%. Total sales, including fuel, in the third quarter were $17.7 billion, compared with $17.6 billion for the same period last year. Excluding fuel sales, total sales increased 2.2% over the prior-year period.

“The operating environment we saw during the third quarter was more challenging than we anticipated, obscuring some otherwise strong fundamentals in our performance such as exceptional tonnage growth, market share gains, increases in loyal household count, and good cost control. These fundamentals are important to our long-term success,” said David Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “In the near-term, our financial results are being pressured by factors including persistent deflation, unusually intense competition and the cautious mindset of customers. We are making adjustments to balance the challenges of the current environment with Kroger’s long-term objective for sustainable identical sales and earnings growth, which we believe will create value for shareholders.”

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Celgene Corp. to acquire Gloucester Pharmaceuticals

BY Alaric DeArment

SUMMIT, N.J. Celgene Corp. plans to acquire Cambridge, Mass.-based Gloucester Pharmaceuticals in a deal worth more than $300 million, Celgene announced Monday.

The Summit, N.J.-based biopharmaceutical company said the acquisition of Gloucester for $340 million plus $300 million in future milestone payments would give it a leadership position in developing disease-altering therapies through innovative approaches for patients with blood cancers.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Gloucester’s Istodax (romidepsin) in November as a treatment for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma in patients who have received at least one prior systemic therapy. The agency also gave the drug orphan drug designation for treatment of non-Hodgkin’s T-cell lymphomas like CTCL and peripheral T-cell lymphoma and fast-track status for PTCL.

“This acquisition reflects our ongoing commitment to improving the lives of patients worldwide through innovative medicines discovered and developed both in-house and through external opportunities,” Celgene chairman and CEO Sol Barer sstated.

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FDA rejects EMD Serono’s MS drug

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKLAND, Mass. The Food and Drug Administration has declined to file a regulatory approval application from the U.S. subsidiary of Merck KGaA for a multiple sclerosis drug.

EMD Serono announced that the FDA had responded to its application seeking approval for cladribine tablets with a refuse-to-file letter, which indicates that the application is incomplete. EMD Serono said it would request a meeting with the FDA concerning the application.

“The company will work closely with the FDA to fully understand FDA’s concerns and define a path forward for a successful resubmission of this application at the earliest point in time,” Merck KGaA head of pharmaceuticals and board member Elmar Schnee said in a statement. “We remain focused on delivering on our promise to transform the way people living with multiple sclerosis approach their therapy options.”

Merck KGaA is a separate company from the U.S.-based Merck & Co.

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