Wholesale drug supplier

AmerisourceBergen

(ABC) - Get Report

said fourth-quarter earnings climbed more than 40% Tuesday, due to rising demand for drugs and savings from a merger.

The Valley Forge, Penn.-based company posted net income of $95 million, or 86 cents a share, compared with $34.6 million, or 48 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding unusual items, Amerisource said it earned 88 cents a share, topping Wall Street estimates, and up from 64 cents a share last year.

Analysts were expecting the company to earn 85 cents a share, according to a poll conducted by research firm Thomson Financial/First Call. Operating revenue for the quarter rose to $10.4 billion from $5.5 billion. Special charges related to the merger of AmeriSource Health and Bergen Brunswig totaled $2.3 million, after taxes.

"In the fiscal 2002 fourth quarter, our outstanding performance was driven by our continual focus on customer service, synergy cost savings ahead of internal expectations and strong working capital management," the company said in a press release.

For the full year, earnings before charges were $3.29 a share, also ahead of estimates, compared with $2.31 a share the previous year. Amerisource also offered an upbeat forecast for 2003, saying it expects earnings growth of about 20% and revenue growth between 11% and 14%, excluding charges. The shares closed at $71.95 on Monday.