Walgreens profit beats estimates on PBM partnerships

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as recent partnerships with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and insurance companies helped boost sales of prescription drugs as well as non-drug items.

The largest U.S. drugstore chain also raised the lower end of its adjusted profit forecast for the year ending August 2017.

Walgreens, which is awaiting regulatory approval for its $9.5 billion takeover of smaller rival Rite Aid Corp , said it expects to close the deal early this year.

It had previously extended the merger agreement till Jan. 27.

Walgreens entered partnerships last year with PBMs such as Express Scripts Holding Co and OptumRx and insurer UnitedHealthcare which helped boost sales in the first quarter.

Net income attributable to Walgreens fell to $1.05 billion, or 97 cents per share, in the first quarter ended Nov. 30, from $1.11 billion, or $1.01 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.10 per share, beating the average analysts' estimate of $1.09, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales fell to $28.50 billion from $29.03 billion, falling for the first time in four years and missing the analyst estimate of $29.23 billion.

(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)