* Q1 EPS of 73 cents vs 69-cent estimate
* Lower share count boosts EPS
* Maintains FY 2009 forecast (Adds analyst comment, changes dateline from New York)
CHICAGO, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Drug wholesaler AmerisourceBergen (ABC.N) posted a slightly higher quarterly profit, exceeding analyst targets, helped by its distribution of generic drugs and lower share count outstanding.
The company, one of the top three U.S. drug wholesalers, said on Thursday it earned $111.1 million, or 72 cents per share, in its fiscal first quarter, compared with $109.8 million, or 66 cents per share, a year ago.
Earnings from continuing operations of 73 cents were 4 cents ahead of the average estimate of analysts, according to Reuters Estimates.
The company repurchased $88 million of shares outstanding during the quarter, putting outstanding diluted shares 7 percent below that of a year ago, and said it expects to repurchase about $350 million of common shares in fiscal 2009.
The company backed its fiscal year 2009 forecast for earnings from continuing operations of $3.08 to $3.25 per share.
“Good fiscal first-quarter 2009 results and steady fiscal year 2009 guidance affirm our view that the near-term trends for drug distributors remain stable. Even so, we continue to see room for multiple compression for the group given the steady secular deceleration in growth in its end markets,” Morgan Stanley analyst David Veal said in a research note. (Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Debra Sherman Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Dave Zimmerman)