NEW YORK (AP) -- The Kroger Co. says costs associated with consolidating its pension plan for workers led it to post a net loss in the fourth quarter, even as sales improved at the nation's biggest supermarket chain.
The Cincinnati-based operator of Kroger, Ralphs and other grocery chains said it lost $306.9 million, or 54 cents per share. That's compared with a profit of $278.8 million, or 44 cents per share, a year ago.
Not including one-time charges, the company said it earned 50 cents per share. By that measure, analysts on average expected a profit of 49 cents per share.
The company said total sales for the quarter increased 7.7 percent from a year ago. Kroger has maintained its popularity and profitability by focusing on low prices and loyalty programs.