Kroger gloom

US supermarket chain Kroger posted a 6.6% drop in third-quarter net earnings and said it expected zero profit growth next year. The Cincinnati retailer said it now expected 2003 earnings to be unchanged from 2002 rather than previous estimates of a rise of 10% to 12%. 

Net earnings before one-time items for the period to November 9 fell to $263m from 281.6m last year on sales up 2.8% to $11.7bn. Like-for-like food store sales, excluding fuel, fell 1.3% while total food-store sales rose 2.7%. 

De tuinen sale 

Ahold is to sell its De Tuinen chain of natural products stores in the Netherlands to Holland & Barrett Europe for E16.5m. 

De Tuinen operates 65 stores and sells OTC medicines, supplements and beauty care products. It had sales of E30m last year. 

Wal-mart hitch 

The Puerto Rican government is attempting to block Wal-Mart's proposed purchase of supermarket chain Supermercado Amigo. 

The government is to take action to invalidate the purchase of the 35-strong supermarket chain on anti-trust ground. 

Albertson's down 

US grocery chain Albertson's said third quarter sales fell 4.2% on the back of the weak US economy and increased competition. 

For the period ended October 3, sales dropped to $8.66bn from $9.04bn, but net profits rose 9.1% to $192m compared with $176m last year. 

Chief Larry Johnston said that Albertson's would boost its promotions and marketing. 

Metro in japan 

German retailer Metro has opened its first store in Japan and its second store in Vietnam. 

The expansion into Asia forms part of the group's plan to open eight C&Cs at a cost of about E150m. Metro said it was targeting a niche market in Japan's vast but fragmented retail sector. 

It also plans a slower expansion than in many of the other 25 countries where it has a presence. It plans to open 10 stores in Japan within three years. It opened in Vietnam in March.