Walgreen Co, the largest U.S. drugstore chain, reported a nearly 20 percent jump in quarterly profit as growth in sales of prescription drugs and flu shots offset the hit from consumers cutting back on buying candy and other discretionary items.
The company, which operates more than 7,140 Walgreens drugstores, earned $489 million, or 49 cents per share, in the fiscal first quarter ended on November 30, up from $408 million, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier. Results in the latest quarter include a 3 cent per share hit from restructuring and other costs.
Shares of Walgreen rose 0.85 percent to $36.95 in light premarket trade.
Walgreen previously said first-quarter sales jumped 9.5 percent to $16.36 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 4.9 percent. Same-store sales of prescriptions jumped 6.1 percent, and same-store sales of general merchandise rose 2.7 percent.
Pharmacy sales have gotten a boost from the company administering seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccinations. Walgreen and its Take Care in-store clinics handled 5.4 million seasonal flu shots this year and are administering vaccinations for H1N1, or swine flu, across most of the country. (Reporting by Jessica Wohl; editing by John Wallace)