Jan 07, 2021 (Baystreet.ca via COMTEX) -- Walgreens Boots Alliance /zigman2/quotes/203410933/composite WBA -0.23% reported Thursday fiscal first-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street's expectations, helped by stronger-than-expected pharmacy sales.
In the first quarter, Walgreens posted net loss of $308 million, or 36 cents per share, compared with a net income of $845 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding a charge from its AmerisourceBergen investment, it earned $1.22 per share, higher than the $1.03 expected by analysts.
Sales rose to $36.31 billion from $34.34 billion a year earlier, outpacing the $34.95 billion that analysts expected.
Walgreens said its pharmacy sales picked up in the U.S. as it filled more prescriptions.
Comparable pharmacy sales rose 5% compared with a year earlier. The higher sales came despite less foot traffic, lower sales of cough, cold and flu medications and fewer new prescriptions as people skipped the doctor's office and socially distanced during the pandemic.
In the United Kingdom, Walgreen's comparable pharmacy sales rose 2.5% percent compared with a year ago, largely due to a reimbursement from the National Health System. Boots UK stores have been particularly hard-hit by restrictions during the pandemic. The NHS payment helped offset a drop in prescription volume.
The company has sought growth opportunities as the drugstore industry faces disruption and the pandemic changes shopping patterns. It's responded by adding more health-care services and expanding its digital offerings. It unveiled a new mobile app and added curbside pickup at its U.S. stores, which can have online purchases ready for customers in as little as 30 minutes.
WBA shares gained 99 cents, or 2.3%, to $44.02.
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