CVS Health first-quarter earnings climbed nearly 5 percent and topped Wall Street expectations, as the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain filled more prescriptions at its stores and got a sales bump from the timing of Easter.
The company also released a 2018 earnings forecast that was much higher than analysts expected. CVS Health had held off making that projection until the company ironed out the financing for its roughly $69 billion purchase of the health insurer Aetna, a deal the companies announced in December.
CVS Health said Wednesday that it predicts 2018 adjusted earnings of between $6.87 and $7.08 per share. FactSet says analysts forecast, on average, earnings of $6.47 per share.
Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS Health Corp. runs more than 9,800 retail locations — a total that ranks second only to Walgreens — and also processes well over a billion prescriptions annually as one of the nation’s largest pharmacy benefit managers.
The company booked a $998 million profit in the first quarter, with adjusted earnings of $1.48 per share. Revenue grew 2.6 percent to $45.69 billion.
Analysts expected, on average, earnings of $1.41 per share on $45.77 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.
CVS Health said prescriptions sold at stores open at least a year grew more than 8 percent in the quarter, which helped push overall sales at those stores up nearly 6 percent.
Sales from the front end of its stores, or the area outside the pharmacy, grew 1.6 percent, as Easter fell in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the second quarter last year.
Revenue from the company’s biggest business, which handles pharmacy benefit management, climbed 3 percent to about $32.2 billion.
Company shares advanced $2.68 to $70.75 in premarket trading, after CVS Health detailed results.