Walgreen earnings rise 18 percent, beat expectations

Monday, September 27th 2004, 9:52 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Walgreen Co. posted an 18 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit thanks to continuing strength in prescription drug sales, beating Wall Street estimates.

Net earnings reported Monday for the June-through-August quarter were $327.2 million, or 32 cents a share, compared with $277.1 million, or 27 cents a share, a year earlier.

Results were a penny per share higher than the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues rose 14 percent to $9.4 billion from $8.3 billion.

Prescription sales climbed 16 percent in the fourth quarter and accounted for 63 percent of total company sales in fiscal 2004. Comparable-store prescription sales increased 12.5 percent in the quarter.

``Though there was some softening industrywide this year in prescription demand because of higher co-pays, we continued to record strong gains,'' said David Bernauer, chairman and CEO of the Deerfield, Ill.-based company.

The company opened 208 new stores in the fourth quarter, proceeding with its rapid expansion strategy. It operated 4,582 drugstores in 44 states and Puerto Rico as of Aug. 31.

Walgreen said it expects a net increase of 365 stores in fiscal 2005 after closings and relocations, including 450 total openings.

For the full fiscal year, the company posted net earnings of $1.36 billion, or $1.32 a share, up 16 percent from $1.18 billion, or $1.14 a share, a year earlier. Revenues increased 15 percent to $37.5 billion from $32.5 billion.