Walgreens forecasts 2021 profit growth after fourth-quarter earnings beat

A sign for flu shots is displayed at a Walgreens store in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Christopher Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance said on Thursday it expects profit to grow in single digits in 2021 after posting a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, helped by higher sales at U.S. pharmacies.

Shares of the largest U.S. drugstore chain rose 2.8% to $36.93.

The company said it expects strong adjusted profit growth in the second half of 2021, as impact of the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, and supported by its recovery plans.

Last quarter, the company suffered a significant decline in footfall in its UK-based retail pharmacies, and resorted to store closures, job cuts and suspension of share repurchases.

Same-store sales at the company’s retail pharmacy division in the United States rose 3.6% from a year earlier.

Excluding items, Walgreens earned $1.02 per share, beating analysts’ expectations of 96 cents per share.

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