COVID-19 took another bite out of Walgreens Boots Alliance quarterly numbers but this time left behind better-than-expected earnings.
The drugstore chain said Thursday that it made $373 million in the final quarter of fiscal 2020 after losing $1.7 billion the previous quarter, when millions of shoppers stayed home to avoid the rapidly spreading pandemic.
COVID-19 still hurt. The company estimated that the pandemic's impact shaved about $520 million from its operating income in the most recent quarter.
But Walgreens also grew sales and prescriptions in the United States and saw some improvement in the United Kingdom. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. runs more than 9,000 stores in the United States and several thousand locations internationally.
Company shares climbed higher than the broader market in morning trading Thursday.
Drugstore chains and other retailers were pummeled this year by lockdowns that kept customers away from their stores. But as those restrictions eased, companies have since started reporting improving numbers.
Walgreens leaders told analysts Thursday that customer visits to their stores were still down, but shoppers were continuing to buy more per visit.
Sales from established U.S. stores climbed 3.6% compared with last year's quarter. That's an important metric because it excludes stores that recently closed or opened.
Those sales dropped 29% for the company's Boots stores in the United Kingdom, but the company said customer visits improved steadily compared with the third quarter.
Overall, the company booked adjusted earnings of $1.02 per share in the three-month window that ended Aug. 31. Revenue climbed 2% to $34.75 billion.