UBS analyst has hope for Rite Aid

NEW YORK There may be a silver lining within Rite Aid's second-quarter results that were released Thursday, UBS Investment Research analyst Neil Currie wrote in a research note released shortly after Rite Aid's conference call with analysts.

Rite Aid reported a loss-per-share of 23 cents, Currie noted, “but excluding 5 cents in debt modification, expense results were minus 18 cents, versus the Street’s minus 16 cents estimate. However, if excluding the 3 cents [per share] in advertising for Wellness+, pharmacist immunization training and the shift in Memorial Day holiday pay, results were virtually in line with expectations.”

Currie commented that Rite Aid’s results are not nearly as bad as many of the day’s headlines suggested. “Despite negative sales trends, gross margin showed further stabilization, declining only 11 basis points year-over-year to 26.6% versus Street (& UBS) estimate of down 20 basis points to 26.5%,” he wrote. Further, Rite Aid’s expenditures against growing its Wellness+ membership rolls produced growth of approximately 10 million new members in the past quarter. “A worthy investment in our view,” Currie wrote.

Currie reiterated UBS’ buy rating on Rite Aid, with a price target of $4, “based on a belief that Rite Aid could play a role in further industry consolidation.”

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