A Boots store

Walgreens Boots Alliance posted a gain in net earnings for its second fiscal quarter despite lower sales.

For its second quarter, earnings were $1.1 billion, up 14 percent from the year-ago period. Net earnings per share were up 15.3 percent, to 98 cents. Overall sales for the quarter were down 2.4 percent, to $29.4 billion. Walgreens retail pharmacy sales were up 1.5 percent year-over-year to $21.8 billion, but retail sales dipped 2.7 percent because of e-commerce closures (in 2016, Walgreens closed Drugstore.com and Beauty.com).

For the first half of its fiscal year, Walgreens net earnings increased 3.6 percent year-over-year, with EPS up 3.7 percent to $1.94. Sales dipped 2.1 percent to $57.9 billion compared to the year-ago period.

Walgreens is maintaining its guidance for fiscal 2017, expecting adjusted diluted net earnings per share of $4.90 to $5.08.

Walgreens is still in the process of trying to close a merger with Rite Aid, which has required the pharmacy chains to divest stores. The company has an extension through July 31 with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to try to get the deal approved. It was originally announced in October 2015.

“Our results this quarter were in line with our expectations despite some challenging conditions we faced in a number of markets,” said executive vice chairman and chief executive office Stefano Pessina. “I am particularly pleased with the growth in pharmacy volume and market share in the Retail Pharmacy USA division, which saw the highest comparable prescription growth in more than seven years. At the same time, we continue to work toward gaining regulatory approval of the pending acquisition of Rite Aid Corporation by the end of July, consistent with the amended merger agreement announced in January.”

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