With fourth quarter profits exceeding Wall Street expectations, Walgreens Boots Alliance touted gains for both the period and the fiscal year despite weak U.S. retail comps.
The company posted net earnings of $5.02 billion, or $5.05 per diluted share, for the fiscal year ended August 31, versus $4.08 billion, or $3.78 per diluted share, in the period a year earlier. Adjusted company net earnings were $5.99 billion, or $6.02 per diluted share, versus $5.5 billion, or $5.10 per diluted share, in the previous fiscal year.
Sales increased 11.3% to $131.54 billion in 2018 versus the fiscal year before. Operating income in 2018 increased 15.4% to $6.41 billion versus the previous fiscal year, and adjusted operating income increased 3.5% to $7.8 billion.
For the fourth quarter, Walgreens Boots posted company net earnings of $1.51 billion, or $1.55 per diluted share, versus $802 million, or 76 cent per diluted share, in the year-earlier period.
Adjusted net earnings were $1.45 billion, or $1.48 per diluted share, versus $1.39 billion, or $1.31 per diluted share, in the quarter a year prior. Adjusted net earnings topped a MarketBeat-published analyst consensus estimate of $1.45.
Sales in the fourth quarter were $33.44 billion, an increase of 10.9% from the year-before quarter. Operating income increased 35.6% to $1.51 billion versus the year-previous quarter, and adjusted operating income increased 0.1% to $1.9 billion.
Retail Pharmacy USA comparable retail sales slipped 1.9% in the fourth quarter year over year, with declines in the consumables and general merchandise category and in the personal care category partially offset by growth in the health and wellness category and in the beauty category. Overall Retail Pharmacy USA comps, including prescriptions, gained 0.3% from the period in the year past, with sales increasing 14.4% to $25.5 billion.
Stefano Pessina, Walgreens Boots, executive vice chairman and CEO, said, “We are pleased to have delivered double digit percentage growth in earnings per share while returning $6.8 billion to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends in fiscal 2018. The integration of the acquired Rite Aid stores is on track, and our pharmacy market share in the U.S. increased year-over-year on an annual basis. We are making progress on our partnership strategy both in the U.S. and internationally, including our most recent announcements with LabCorp, Kroger and Alibaba, which will provide additional opportunities for future growth.”