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Published: Thursday, 9/22/2011

Drugstore operator Rite Aid's fiscal 2nd-quarter loss narrows as sales rise


INDIANAPOLIS — Rite Aid Corp. said Thursday its fiscal second-quarter loss narrowed as sales at stores open at least a year grew, and the drugstore operator reduced its loss forecast for fiscal 2012.

The Camp Hill, Pa., company lost $94.7 million, or 11 cents per share, after paying preferred dividends in the quarter that ended Aug. 27. A year ago it lost $199.3 million, or 23 cents per share. Revenue climbed nearly 2 percent to $6.27 billion.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected, on average, a loss of 18 cents per share.

Rite Aid said earlier this month sales at stores open at least a year rose 2.2 percent in the quarter. The company saw 2.5 percent growth in August, when customers stocked up on "front-end," non-pharmacy items like food and batteries in preparation for Hurricane Irene.

Sales from locations open at least a year is a key indicator of a retailer's long-term health because it excludes stores that recently opened or closed. Rite Aid had reported 18 consecutive months of declines in the figure before it started climbing last winter.

Rite Aid now expects a fiscal 2012 loss of between $345 million and $495 million, or 40 cents to 56 cents per share. That compares to its previous forecast for a loss of between $370 million to $560 million, or 42 to 64 cents per share.

Analysts forecast an annual loss of 50 cents per share, according to FactSet.

The company operates about 4,700 stores and trails only CVS Caremark Corp. and Walgreen Co. in size.

In premarket trading, shares of Rite Aid added 3 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $1.10.

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