Strong Pharmacy Sales Boost CVS Profit

CVS Corp. (CVS), the nation's biggest drug store chain, on Thursday said profit rose 18 percent in the first quarter as sales at its pharmacies open for at least a year rose almost 9 percent.

The drugstore chain said net income available to common shareholders rose to $286.2 million, or 69 cents per share, from $241 million, or 59 cents per share, a year ago.

Sales rose 35 percent to $9.18 billion from $6.82 billion. Same-store sales, or sales for stores open at least one year, rose 8.2 percent, while pharmacy same-store sales rose 8.8 percent and front-end same store sales increased 6.9 percent. CVS (search) said the same-store sales results benefited from a shift of the Easter holiday to March this year.

CVS, which operated 5,409 retail and specialty pharmacy stores as of the end of the quarter, said pharmacy sales represented 71.1 percent of total company sales for the quarter, and third-party prescription sales were 93.8 percent of pharmacy sales for the period.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected the company to earn 68 cents per share on sales of $8.99 billion.

"I am very pleased to report that the aggregate sales results of the 1,100 former Eckerd (search) stores are trending positive to last year, having been in steep decline at the time we acquired them," said Tom Ryan, chairman, president, and chief executive officer in a statement. CVS acquired the Eckerd's chain of drugstores in the middle of last year.

CVS shares slipped 3 cents to $53.35 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, near the high end of their 52-week range of $38.61 to $53.78.