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Express Scripts Profits Rise Sharply; Raises 2007 Forecast

Pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, which is competing against CVS to buy rival Caremark RX, reported a 32% increase in fourth-quarter earnings and raised its outlook for the first quarter.

Net income rose to $147.2 million, or $1.07 a share, from $111.1 million, or 75 cents a share, during the same period a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items in both periods, earnings rose 32% to $1.02 a share from 77 cents a share last year.

Revenue fell 1% to $4.53 billion from $4.58 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a fourth-quarter profit of 97 cents a share on revenue of $4.6 billion.

Express Scripts increased its 2007 earnings forecast to between $4.08 and $4.20 a share from between $3.90 and $4.02 a share. Analysts are expecting a 2007 profit of $3.95 a share.

Express Scripts said the forecast does not include any potential impact from a successful takeover of Caremark.

For the first quarter, the company expects a profit between 90 cents and 95 cents a share, up from a prior range of between 85 cents and 90 cents a share. Analysts are calling for 88 cents a share.

Express Scripts has made a $25 billion bid for Caremark , topping a $21.2 bilion offer from drug store operator CVS . Despite the higher bid from Express Scripts, Caremark has asked its shareholders to support the CVS offer in an upcoming shareholder vote.

On Thursday, Express Scripts said if Caremark Rx shareholders approve the deal with CVS, Express Scripts will promptly begin to repurchase its own stock.

Express Scripts' board has approved an increase its share repurchase authorization, to buy back as much as 14.1 milllion shares, or $1 billion, whichever occurs first.

Express Scripts will host a conference call and webcast at 9:00 am New York time on Thursday.