Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Contract agreement can't stop drop
in Kroger stock



By Mike Boyer
Enquirer staff writer

Kroger Co.'s shares closed down 12 cents Monday at $14.85, the first day of trading since the company reached a tentative contract agreement with the union representing 8,500 clerks and meat cutters in Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana.

It was the second time in a week that Kroger's shares closed at a new 52-week low.

The drop reflected a decline among supermarket stocks. Wild Oats Markets skidded $1.34, or 18 percent, to $6.11 after the organic chain lowered its third-quarter and 2004 earnings outlook, partly because of higher-than-expected investments in Southern California and Texas, new store openings and noncash restructuring charges.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1099, which represents Kroger employees at 70 area stores, are slated to vote on the proposed three-year pact in a series of meetings Wednesday.

The company and union have declined to reveal details until Local 1099 members vote on the proposal.

The union says the agreement includes both across-the-board hourly wage increases and bonuses as well as cost-sharing on health insurance and pension improvements.

The company says the deal, reached after a 16-hour bargaining session Friday, balances workers' need for wages and benefits with Kroger's need to curb costs.

E-mail mboyer@enquirer.com



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