Feb. 11 - More prescriptions and increased generic drug sales lifted CVS Caremark's profit, offsetting fewer visits by shoppers. Fred Katayama reports.
Filling more prescriptions helped boost quarterly sales and profit at CVS Caremark. It also sold more generic drugs, which are more profitable than brand name pharmaceuticals - that helped offset a drop in the number of shoppers visiting its stores, a problem that has also struck rivals Walgreen and Rite Aid. The nation's second largest drugstore chain raised its outlook for the current quarter. And it stuck to its annual profit forecast even though it plans to halt sales of tobacco products at its stores by October. Analysts say that move, aimed at transforming the company into a healthcare and wellness provider, could help it boost its pharmacy benefits management business and secure big government contracts. Barclays analyst Meredith Adler said: "We expect the stock to be up today based on the solid fourth-quarter results and the increased first-quarter EPS guidance range. The updated guidance indicates that EPS may be more first half-weighted than previously thought." CVS shares rose at the start of trade, adding on to its 52-week gain of more than 30 percent.