Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

rallied Thursday after a strong bottom-line performance in the fourth quarter.

The big Pennsylvania-based dugstore chain posted a fourth-quarter profit of $229 million, or 35 cents per diluted share, riding on a big tax break. Excluding the tax break, net income of 6 cents a share was ahead of the Wall Street analyst consensus estimate by 9 cents. Profit for the same period last year was $59.4 million, or 9 cents per diluted share.

Revenue for the quarter ended Feb. 26 dropped 1.3% from a year ago to $4.34 billion. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization fell by $49 million to $169 million, because of higher overhead partially offset by improved gross margins.

Same-store sales fell 0.9% during the fourth quarter, including a 1.1% drop in pharmacy same-store sales and a 0.5% slide in front-end same-store sales.

For fiscal 2006, the company expects to earn 2 to 7 cents a share on sales of around $17.5 billion. The First Call consensus estimate called for earnings of 16 cents a share on sales of $17 billion.

"We continued to feel the negative impact of the United Auto Workers mandatory mail program," Rite Aid chief Mary Sammons said in a press release. "We anticipate that the negative factors currently impacting our pharmacy sales will continue through the first half of the year, but that we will see improvement from our initiatives during the second half of fiscal 2006."

Rite Aid expects same-store sales to rise 1.4% to 3.4% for the year ending next February. Adjusted EBITDA for 2006 is expected to be $700 million-$750 million, and capital expenditures will be in the range of $350 million to $400 million.

Also Thursday, the Woonsocket, R.I., drugstore chain


(CVS) - Get Report

said March same-store sales jumped 7.5%, helped by an early Easter. Total sales for the five weeks ended April 2 were $3.55 billion, up 34%, partly due to last-year's acquisition of 1,268 Eckerd drugstores. Same-store pharmacy sales rose 7.1%, while same-store sales of front-end merchandise rose 8.5%.

Ealier this week, the No. 1 drugstore in this great nation,



, posted a record second-quarter profit of $491 million, or 48 cents a share. The Deerfield, Ill., chain's same-store sales rose 11.6%, again with the early Easter coming up huge.

In midday trading, Rite Aid stock was up 3% to $3.88, CVS was down 1.35% to $51.90, and Walgreens was down fractionally to $44.30.