* EPS C$0.20 vs analyst forecast C$0.19
* Same-store sales up 1.4 percent
* Raises quarterly dividend 9 pct
* Says on lookout for acquisitions
(Adds details from conference call, shares)
By S. John Tilak
TORONTO, April 28 Jean Coutu Group Inc
(PJCa.TO) reported a higher quarterly profit on Thursday,
beating analysts' estimates, as the Canadian pharmacy chain
posted modest gains in both prescription and front-of-store
The company also set a quarterly dividend of 6 Canadian
cents a share, up 9.1 percent from the previous quarter, and
said it was looking for acquisitions.
Quarterly revenue, which missed analysts' forecasts, was
hurt by government measures to bring down the price of generic
drugs in the province of Quebec, where Jean Coutu is based, the
company said. [ID:nN17115151] [ID:nN08213820]
Retail sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.4
percent in the quarter. Pharmacy sales gained 0.9 percent, and
front-end sales -- food, drink and beauty items -- rose 1.5
Generic drugs accounted for 55.6 percent of the company's
prescriptions in the quarter thanks to the launch of generic
versions of large-volume drugs in the past 12 months. This
compares with 51.2 percent a year ago.
The regulatory changes, which began in Ontario last year
and spread to Quebec, have hurt the profits of other large
drugstore chains, such as Shoppers Drug Mart Corp SC.TO and
Katz Group-owned Rexall, but may prove disastrous for small,
Independents might find it hard to increase revenue because
of the reforms, Chief Executive Francois Coutu said on a
conference call with analysts.
"It could be decision-making time (for independent
pharmacies). We will be there to look at any possible
acquisitions," he added.
Jean Coutu runs nearly 400 drugstores in Quebec, New
Brunswick and Ontario under banners including Jean Coutu,
Clinique, Sante and Sante Beaute.
Earnings for the fourth quarter, ended Feb. 26, rose to
C$46.4 million ($48.8 million), or 20 Canadian cents a share,
from C$42.8 million, or 18 Canadian cents a share, a year
Analysts, on average, had forecast earnings of 19 Canadian
cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 3 percent to C$655.6 million, trailing the
average analyst estimate of C$657.9 million.
The stock, up 14 percent in the past six months, climbed
0.6 percent to C$10.51 on Thursday morning on the Toronto Stock
(Reporting by S. John Tilak, editing by Rob Wilson)