Kroger posts net loss on $1.4 billion opioid case settlement charge

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Illustration shows Kroger logo

Kroger logo is displayed in this illustration taken September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration Acquire Licensing Rights

Sept 8 (Reuters) - Kroger (KR.N) on Friday took a $1.4-billion charge related to a nationwide opioid settlement in the quarter and warned of weaker sales in the second half of the year, as the U.S. grocer expects consumer spending to remained challenged.

The settlement by Kroger comes on the heels of a collective $13.8-billion settlement agreed upon by other pharmacies, including CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O) and Walmart (WMT.N), in November last year.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed by states, local governments and Native American tribes, accusing drug companies of downplaying the risks of opioids, and distributors and pharmacies of ignoring red flags that they were being trafficked illegally.

Kroger, which is merging with smaller rival Albertsons (ACI.N) in a $25-billion deal, also said it would sell 413 grocery stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers as the companies seek to secure clearance from U.S. regulators for their proposed $24.6-billion merger.

Kroger said it may need C&S to purchase up to an additional 237 stores in certain geographies to get the regulatory nod for the deal, which is expected to close in early 2024.

The Cincinnati, Ohio-based company, which is witnessing strained consumer spending due to still-high inflation, also missed same-store sales for the second quarter, with the company expecting the environment to "remain challenged".

"Expect identical sales without fuel will be at the low end of our full-year guidance range and slightly negative in the second half of the year," CFO Gary Millerchip said.

Shares of the company were down 1.2% as it kept its annual forecasts intact.

Kroger posted a loss of $180 million, or 25 cents per share - its first quarterly loss after nine straight quarters of profit - compared to a profit of $731 million, or $1.01 per share, from a year ago, accounting for the opioid-related charges.

On an adjusted basis, the company reported a profit of 96 cents per share, compared to LSEG estimates of 91 cents per share.

Reporting by Juveria Tabassum and Savyata Mishra; Editing by Pooja Desai

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