Walgreen profits climb 12%


Monday, September 29th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


CHICAGO (AP) _ Walgreen Co. profits rose 12 percent in the fourth quarter as the nation's largest drugstore chain continued to benefit from soaring prescription-drug sales.

Net earnings announced Monday were $277.1 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with $247.7 million, or 24 cents a share, for the same period a year earlier. That matched the consensus estimate of Wall Street analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues for the three-month period ended Aug. 31 were $8.25 billion, a 14 percent increase from $7.24 billion.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based company cited booming drug sales as continued justification for its rapid expansion, which saw it open 209 stores in the quarter for a total of 4,227 in 44 states and Puerto Rico. It said prescription drug sales in the United States rose 11 percent to $183 billion in 2002 and are expected to reach $446 billion by 2012.

Walgreen also cited a turnaround in non-pharmacy sales and a strong back-to-school season as helping the bottom line.

``We had a strong fourth quarter, as non-pharmacy sales bounced back,'' said chairman and CEO David Bernauer. ``We also opened a record 127 new stores in August alone, and our store opening program is on track to reach 7,000 stores by 2010.''

For the fiscal year, earnings were $1.18 billion, or $1.14 a share, up 15 percent from $1.02 billion, or 99 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding gains from legal settlements, earnings were $1.16 billion, a 14 percent gain from $1.02 billion a year earlier.

Revenues for the year advanced 13 percent to $32.51 billion from $28.68 billion.