(Adds details on pharmacy sales, CEO comment; updates shares)
Oct 28 (Reuters) - Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc reported quarterly profit above market expectations on Monday, benefiting from higher prices for branded drugs and an increase in prescription volume.
Shares rose 2% before the bell after the company said it expects fiscal 2020 earnings to be roughly flat and "very much in line" with its expectations.
Walgreens' stock has been under pressure since the start of the year as investor expectations over the company's growth prospects took a hit in the face of low reimbursement rates for filling prescriptions. "While we still face headwinds, I am encouraged by the improvement in U.S. comparable sales performance in the second half of fiscal 2019 and our progress in managing costs," Chief Executive Officer Stefano Pessina said in a statement.
Same-store sales at the retail pharmacy division in the United States rose 3.4% from a year earlier.
Walgreens said it now expects annual savings of $1.8 billion by fiscal 2022 from its cost-cut plan that was announced late last year, up from $1.5 billion. As part of the plan, it had decided in August to close 200 U.S. stores.
Net income attributable to the company fell to $677 million, or 75 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Aug. 31, from $1.51 billion, or $1.55 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, Walgreens earned $1.43 per share, beating analysts' expectations of $1.41 per share.
Revenue rose 1.53% from a year earlier to $33.95 billion.
Shares of the company were trading higher at $56.31 before the bell. They have fallen 18.9% so far this year, making it the worst performing stock on the bluechip Dow Jones Industrial Average index. (Reporting by Manas Mishra and Trisha Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)