May 3, 2012 / 12:07 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 2-Jean Coutu posts higher profit, boosts dividend

* Q4 EPS C$0.28 vs C$0.20 last year

* Revenue rises 11.7 pct to C$737.2 mln

* Same-store sales up 4.2 pct

* Raises div to C$0.07

* Shares rise 2.4 pct

May 3 (Reuters) - Canadian pharmacy chain Jean Coutu Group Inc reported a bigger-than-expected rise in quarterly earnings as sales at its new franchised stores rose, prompting the company to raise its dividend.

Margins at Jean Coutu and peers such as Shoppers Drug Mart Corp have been under pressure as new legislations in Ontario and Quebec have lowered generic drug prices.

Jean Coutu, however, is hoping its generic drug making unit, Pro Doc, will help strengthen consolidated margins.

The company, which operates nearly 400 franchised stores in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario, raised its quarterly payout by 16.7 percent to 7 Canadian cents per share.

Fourth-quarter net income at Jean Coutu rose to C$62 million $62.69 million), or 28 Canadian cents per share, compared with analysts’ expectations of 24 Canadian cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 11.7 percent to C$737.2 million, beating market estimates of C$680 million.

“Results were driven by one extra week in the quarter, strong performance from franchise operations, and solid same-store sales performance,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Irene Nattel said in a note to clients.

Overall sales at established stores in the company’s network rose 4.2 percent, while pharmacy sales gained 4.4 percent.

Generic prescriptions contributed to 57.4 percent of total prescriptions in the fourth quarter, up from 55.6 percent a year ago period.

Unusually mild weather in Quebec during the December-February period helped drive traffic to stores, Nattel added.

The company’s shares rose 1.4 percent to C$14.53 on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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