Accounting Data Sought From Kroger, Albertson’s

From Reuters

Kroger Inc., the largest U.S. supermarket chain, said Wednesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission has requested information on how the company accounts for payments from vendors.

A spokesman for Albertson’s Inc. said the No. 2 U.S. grocer also has been contacted by the SEC about a similar matter.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which owns supermarkets including Ralphs, said it believed the review was part of regular SEC activities mandated by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which aims to curb accounting irregularities.

Kroger said it complied with the request, which covered its 2001 annual report and 2002 second- and third-quarter reports. No changes in the filings were required, the company said.

Vendor payments, used in promoting certain products, have come under scrutiny in recent months after Dutch retailer Ahold uncovered $880 million in accounting irregularities related to such payments at its U.S. Foodservice unit.


Jason Whitmer, an analyst at FTN Midwest Research, said that by contacting retailers such as Kroger and Albertson’s, the SEC may be trying to understand how to standardize “what is encompassed in the vendor allowance bucket” on a national level.

In May, office supplies retailer Staples Inc. said securities regulators were reviewing how major retailers in six Northeastern states account for vendor payments.

Kroger shares fell 5 cents to $16.60 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock of Boise, Idaho-based Albertson’s rose 42 cents to $21.82.