Walgreen Co. (WAG), one of the largest U.S. drugstore chain operators, on Monday posted a 30.5 percent jump in quarterly profit, its largest increase in four years, boosted by higher sales of prescription drugs and general merchandise.

Profit was $332.7 million, or 32 cents a share, in the fiscal first quarter ended Nov. 30. That compares with $254.9 million, or 25 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding a $15 million pretax gain from legal settlements, earnings in the quarter were 31 cents a share. Analysts had expected 29 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose 13.4 percent to $9.89 billion. Sales rose 9.4 percent at stores open at least a year, a key measure for retailers.

Walgreen shares rose 5.4 percent in 2004, far underperforming the shares of rival CVS Corp. (CVS), which gained 24.8 percent.