The Jean Coutu Group has reported a big increase in net profit in its fiscal 2014 second quarter, largely as a result of gains from its sale of its stake in U.S. drugstore chain Rite Aid.
Quebec's largest pharmacy retailer says that as a result of that gain, it plans to return up to $502 million to shareholders by way of share buyback and a special, one-time cash dividend of 50 cents per share.
For the quarter ended Aug. 31, Jean Coutu says net earnings were $208.2 million, or 99 cents per share, including a gain of $158.3 million on the sale this past July of its remaining stake in Rite Aid, which owns 4,600 drugstores in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
That compared with $51.2 million, or 23 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago when no special gains were reported in the quarter.
The company said net profit ex-items was $49.9 million, or 24 cents per share, about level with year-earlier earnings of $50 million, or 23 cents a share.
That missed by a penny the average analyst estimate, as compiled by Thomson Reuters, which had called for adjusted earnings of 25 cents per share on revenue of $651.6 million.
Revenue in the latest period totalled $653.8 million, down from $658.7 million.
WiIl buy back Class A shares
Jean Coutu announced after markets closed Tuesday that it planned to buy back for cancellation up to 22 million Class A subordinate voting shares at $18.50 a share. The stock closed up 26 cents Tuesday at $18.91 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
The one-time cash dividend would be paid Dec. 2 to all shareholders of record Nov. 25.
"Following the sale of our equity stake in Rite Aid Corp. and given our significant cash flow from operations, we believe that the offer and the special dividend will provide an efficient means to distribute a significant amount of cash on hand to shareholders," president and CEO François Coutu said in a statement.
The Jean Coutu Group operates a network of 407 franchised stores in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario under the banners of PJC Jean Coutu, PJC Clinique, PJC Santé and PJC Santé Beauté.
It also owns Pro Doc Ltd., a Quebec-based subsidiary and manufacturer of generic drugs.