Kroger (NYSE:KR) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a research note issued to investors on Tuesday.

According to Zacks, “Kroger is trying all means to overcome competition, volatility in food prices and promotional environment. It is introducing new items, digital coupons, order online pick up in store and smart shopping lists. The company's “Restock Kroger” program is gaining traction. The company's operational strategies present opportunities to improve identical supermarket sales and return on invested capital. These efforts are likely to fuel top and bottom-line growth, as evident from fourth-quarter fiscal 2017 results. In our view, Kroger’s earnings per share growth rate target of 8-11% seem achievable. All these are likely to cushion the stock that came under pressure and underperformed the industry in the past three months due to soft fiscal 2018 earnings view. Further, we note that higher investments in new services and compelling pricing strategy may hurt margins. Additionally, a high debt load may also impact credit worthiness.”

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Other equities analysts have also recently issued research reports about the company. TheStreet upgraded Kroger from a “c+” rating to a “b” rating in a report on Wednesday, December 27th. Citigroup lifted their price objective on Kroger from $30.00 to $33.00 and gave the company a “buy” rating in a report on Tuesday, December 26th. Jefferies Group upgraded Kroger from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating and lifted their price objective for the company from $26.98 to $33.00 in a report on Friday, January 5th. Moffett Nathanson assumed coverage on Kroger in a report on Monday, December 4th. They set a “buy” rating on the stock. Finally, Pivotal Research set a $30.00 price objective on Kroger and gave the company a “buy” rating in a report on Saturday, December 2nd. Seventeen equities research analysts have rated the stock with a hold rating, ten have issued a buy rating and one has assigned a strong buy rating to the company’s stock. The stock presently has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $27.27.

Kroger (KR) opened at $23.45 on Tuesday. The company has a current ratio of 0.78, a quick ratio of 0.32 and a debt-to-equity ratio of 1.74. Kroger has a 1-year low of $19.69 and a 1-year high of $31.45. The stock has a market capitalization of $20,412.34, a PE ratio of 11.11, a price-to-earnings-growth ratio of 1.92 and a beta of 1.02.

Kroger (NYSE:KR) last issued its earnings results on Thursday, March 8th. The company reported $0.63 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, hitting the Zacks’ consensus estimate of $0.63. Kroger had a return on equity of 29.27% and a net margin of 1.55%. The firm had revenue of $31.03 billion for the quarter, compared to analysts’ expectations of $30.81 billion. During the same quarter last year, the business earned $0.53 earnings per share. The company’s revenue was up 12.4% compared to the same quarter last year. sell-side analysts expect that Kroger will post 2.06 EPS for the current year.

Kroger announced that its Board of Directors has initiated a share buyback plan on Thursday, March 15th that permits the company to repurchase $1.00 billion in outstanding shares. This repurchase authorization permits the company to buy shares of its stock through open market purchases. Shares repurchase plans are generally an indication that the company’s board believes its shares are undervalued.

In related news, VP Todd A. Foley sold 3,800 shares of Kroger stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, March 8th. The stock was sold at an average price of $24.43, for a total value of $92,834.00. Following the sale, the vice president now owns 31,273 shares of the company’s stock, valued at approximately $763,999.39. The sale was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which can be accessed through this link. Also, VP Michael Joseph Donnelly sold 15,400 shares of Kroger stock in a transaction that occurred on Thursday, December 28th. The shares were sold at an average price of $27.66, for a total value of $425,964.00. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. In the last three months, insiders sold 93,600 shares of company stock worth $2,740,752. 0.87% of the stock is owned by insiders.

A number of institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in KR. Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc. increased its position in shares of Kroger by 36.0% during the 4th quarter. Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc. now owns 138,092 shares of the company’s stock worth $3,791,000 after purchasing an additional 36,544 shares during the last quarter. Rehmann Capital Advisory Group acquired a new position in shares of Kroger during the 4th quarter worth approximately $203,000. Xact Kapitalforvaltning AB increased its position in shares of Kroger by 12.4% during the 4th quarter. Xact Kapitalforvaltning AB now owns 82,693 shares of the company’s stock worth $2,270,000 after purchasing an additional 9,143 shares during the last quarter. Envestnet Asset Management Inc. increased its position in shares of Kroger by 2.2% during the 4th quarter. Envestnet Asset Management Inc. now owns 276,710 shares of the company’s stock worth $7,595,000 after purchasing an additional 5,863 shares during the last quarter. Finally, BRITISH COLUMBIA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT Corp increased its position in shares of Kroger by 1.5% during the 4th quarter. BRITISH COLUMBIA INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT Corp now owns 360,305 shares of the company’s stock worth $9,890,000 after purchasing an additional 5,257 shares during the last quarter. 75.68% of the stock is currently owned by institutional investors and hedge funds.

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Kroger Company Profile

The Kroger Co (Kroger) manufactures and processes food for sale in its supermarkets. The Company operates supermarkets, multi-department stores, jewelry stores and convenience stores throughout the United States. As of January 28, 2017, it had operated approximately 4,000 owned or leased supermarkets, convenience stores, fine jewelry stores, distribution warehouses and food production plants through divisions, subsidiaries or affiliates.

Analyst Recommendations for Kroger (NYSE:KR)

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