General Mills Inc. yesterday reported net earnings in the fourth quarter of its fiscal year ended May 31 of $37 million (73 cents a share), an 8.2 percent increase from the previous year, on sales of $1.26 billion a 24.2 percent increase.

And Kroger Co. said it had a 13.1 percent sales gain in the second quarter over an excellent second quarter last year.

General Mills reported record sales, profits and earnings per share for the full fiscal year.

Annual sales increased 16.4 percent to $4.85 billion and net earnings grew 15.6 percent to $196.6 million ($3.90).

Bruce Atwater, president and chief executive officer of the Minneapolis-based company, said consumer foods, restaurants, toys and fashion set records while specialty retailing, the smallest group, showed a decline in operating profits. Kroger said yesterday that its earnings rose to $28.6 million on a last-in, first-out (LIFO) accounting basis from $27 million a year ago. But earnings per share were level with the last year's quarter at 98 cents because of the dilutive effect of the sale of $50 million in subordinated convertible debentures.

Sales rose to $2.588 billion from $2.289 billion.

First-half profits were $45 million ($1.58 a share) on a LIFO basis on sales of $5.071 billion compared with $39.4 million ($1.43) a year ago on sales of $4.477 billion.

Chairman Lyle Everingham said the earnings also were helped by a reduction in the loss of the Super Drug Store division in the second quarter from the first quarter. Everingham said grocery stores, the company's traditional business, did quite well. Earnings also benefitted from a higher investment tax credit.

The LIFO accounting system reduced second-quarter earnings by 20 cents a share. A year ago they reduced earnings 24 cents a share.