Walgreen, the largest US pharmacy chain, on Monday reported a 13.3 per cent increase in underlying second-quarter earnings and said the figure would have been higher if more Americans had got the flu this winter.
Second-quarter earnings rose to $550.9m, including a $27.4m pre-tax stock option expense, up from last year's $486.2m, which included a $4.7m pre-tax gain from litigation settlements.
Walgreen said net earnings rose 6.6 per cent to $523.5m, or 51 cents per share, compared with $490.9m, or 48 cents, in the previous year. Revenues rose 10.7 per cent to $12.2bn.
Dave Bernauer, chief executive, said "this quarter saw the impact of a much milder flu season than a year ago, [but] we continue to increase pharmacy market share and our prescription growth continues to outpace the industry".
Prescription sales rose by 11.1 per cent and by 7.4 per cent at stores open at least a year. Walgreens is expected to benefit from an upcoming wave of generic drugs to the market, carrying a higher profit margin for pharmacy chains than brand-name drugs. Mr Bernauer has said that two-thirds of Walgreen's prescriptions would be for generic drugs by the end of next year.
Overall same-store sales grew 6.5 per cent thanks to strong activity during the Christmas and Valentine's Day shopping seasons, Walgreens said.
The company opened or acquired 22 new stores in the first half of its fiscal year and operated 5,156 stores in 45 US states and Puerto Rico. It plans to operate more than 7,000 stores by 2010.
Walgreen shares were up 1.2 per cent to $44.91 while shares in rival CVS rose 2.5 per cent to $29.78.