Adjusted gross profits for the international division – which includes Boots UK – dropped by 13.4% for the December-February period, compared to the same quarter a year ago, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced today (March 31).
This was “partially offset by the favourable timing of NHS reimbursement”, Walgreens Boots Alliance said, referring to the £370 million advance payment awarded to pharmacies in England last year for COVID-related costs.
However, adjusted operating income took a big hit in the three months to February because of “strict COVID-19 restrictions in the UK”, it said, falling by 31.8%.
Pharmacy sales up once again
While COVID-19 continued to impact Boots UK’s comparable retail sales – decreasing 17.9% compared to the same quarter a year ago – comparable pharmacy sales in the UK actually increased 3.2% in the same period.
Walgreens Boots Alliance again attributed this to the £370m reimbursement, but also highlighted “stronger pharmacy services, which mitigated the impact of lower prescription volume”, it said.
Last year, Boots announced plans to expand its pharmacy services, including piloting “new private independent prescribing clinics”, and “building upon the success” of its cystitis test and treat service.
Boots.com continued to perform “very strongly”, with sales up 105% compared with the three months to February 2020, which helped to partially offset the reduced footfall to Boots branches, Walgreens Boots Alliance explained.
Overall results “well ahead of expectations”
Overall sales for the quarter across the whole of the company increased 4.6% on a constant currency basis to $32.8 billion (£23.8bn), compared with the same period last year, which recently appointed CEO Rosalind Brewer said was “well ahead of expectations”.
“Overall, we have achieved a good financial quarter with results well ahead of expectations, despite significant impacts from COVID-19,” she said.
“I am optimistic about our ability to drive sustainable, long-term value for our shareholders, while acknowledging that there is still work to be done to stabilise the base business.
“I will continue to review closely all our initiatives, strategies and opportunities to capitalise fully on the incredible potential in front of us,” Ms Brewer added.
In January, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced it had sold has sold the majority share of its wholesaling arm Alliance Healthcare to company AmerisourceBergen for £4.7 billion ($6.5bn).
Walgreens Boots Alliance expects to “close” the sale by the end of this financial year, it said in today’s financial results report.