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Walgreens Boots Tops Earnings Forecast, Lifts 2021 Outlook; Shares Leap

A surge in prescription fillings helped pharmacy sales rise 6.3% from last year and boosted both the top and bottom lines for Dow component Walgreens Boots.

Walgreens Boots Alliance  (WBA) - Get Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc Report posted stronger-than-expected third quarter earnings Thursday, and boosted its full-year profit forecast, thanks in part to big jump in total prescription fillings as customers returned to pharmacies in the waning months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Walgreens said diluted non-GAAP earnings for the three months ending in May, the Dow component's fiscal third quarter, were pegged at $1.38 per share, well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $1.17 per share. Group revenues, Walgreens said, rose 12.1% to $34 billion, again topping analysts' estimates of a $33.75 billion tally.

Comparable store sales in the U.S. were up 6.4%, Walgreens said, with a 3.7% increase for its U.K.-based Boots franchise. Prescription fillings were up 9.8% from last year, while pharmacy sales rose 6.3%.

Looking into the second half of its financial year, Walgreens Boots said it expects a 10% growth rate for "constant currency adjusted EPS", up from a forecast of ""mid-to-high single digit growth" earlier this year. 

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“This quarter’s results demonstrate continued momentum, and while challenges lie ahead, we are in a strong position to grow and innovate our core retail and pharmacy businesses for the future," said CEO Rosalind Brewer. "We are accelerating our investments to advance our operational excellence, including technology innovations that support mass personalization, pharmacy of the future and the next phase of growth in tech-enabled healthcare."

"These investments are fueled by our Alliance Healthcare divestiture. I remain proud of our team members and the essential role they are playing to help end the pandemic as the communities we serve continue to turn to our trusted brands and expert pharmacists,” he added.  

Walgreens shares were marked 7.2% lower in early trading immediately following the earnings release to change hands at $48.80 each, a move that would lift the stock's year-to-date gain to around 33%.