CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here is gearing for its upcoming merger with Fred Meyer Inc., Portland, Ore., through extensive planning in areas ranging from merchandising to human resources, top executives said at the annual meeting last week. Joseph A. Pichler, chairman and chief executive officer, said the merger, which is expected to close "anytime," is expected to increase projected annual earnings growth about 1%. "We remain committed to increasing earnings per share by 16% to 18% ...

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