March 1, 2012 / 1:40 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Kroger posts loss after pension plan change

* Q4 adjusted EPS $0.50

* Sales, including fuel, up 7.7 pct to $21.4 bln

* Sees 2012 EPS $2.28-$2.38 including extra week

March 1 (Reuters) - Kroger Co (KR.N), the biggest U.S. supermarket chain, reported a quarterly loss on Thursday due to the consolidation of some union pension plans, while profit excluding the pension change rose.

The operator of Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Smith's, Food 4 Less and other grocery stores lost $306.9 million, or 54 cents per share, in the fourth quarter that ended Jan. 28, compared with a profit of $278.8 million, or 44 cents per share, a year earlier.

In December, Kroger said that four United Food and Commercial Workers/multi-employer pension funds would merge into a new fund, as of Jan. 1, 2012. Ultimately, the switch should trim its pension contribution costs after the initial charge.

Excluding the impact of the pension plan consolidation Kroger earned $283.8 million, or 50 cents per share.

Sales, including fuel, rose 7.7 percent to $21.4 billion.

Kroger forecast full-year earnings of $2.28 per share to $2.38 per share. It expects to benefit from a 53rd week in the fiscal year, an expected lower inventory charge, aggressive stock repurchases and benefits from the pension plans consolidating.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Jessica Wohl in Chicago; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

((lisa.baertlein@thomsonreuters.com)(+1 213 955 6742)) Keywords: KROGER/

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