Driven by strong second-quarter fiscal 2014 results and an upbeat guidance, shares of Rite Aid Corp. (RAD - Analyst Report) achieved a new 52-week high of $4.79 on Sep 20, 2013, before closing at $4.67. The average volume of shares traded over the last 3 months was approximately 22,177K. Moreover, the company currently trades at a forward P/E of 20.3x, a 32.9% premium to the peer group average of 15.27x.
We believe that the strong price appreciation is primarily attributable to the company’s consistent positive earnings in the past four quarters. Rite Aid, which witnessed declining sales and weak bottom-line results in the recent past, is now showing signs of improvement, thanks to the company’s cost reduction initiatives and improvement in store-level performance.
This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock has outperformed the Zacks Consensus Estimate five times in the trailing six quarters. In the recently concluded quarter, Rite Aid posted adjusted earnings of 8 cents per share, which fared better than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 4 cents and the year-ago comparable quarter’s loss of 5 cents.
Furthermore, on the back of better-than-expected first-half financial results and the anticipation of a stronger second-half performance than projected earlier, management raised its fiscal 2014 guidance. Rite Aid now expects earnings in the range of 18–27 cents per share for the fiscal, up from the previous guidance range of 1–16 cents. Currently, the Zacks Consensus Estimate stands at 23 cents per share.
Rite Aid utilized additional resources such as the Wellness+ customer loyalty program and the Flu Immunization program to boost customers’ demand amid the challenging macroeconomic environment. The company’s Wellness+ customer loyalty program has been successful in attracting customers. This is evident from the fact that Wellness+ members in fiscal 2013 contributed to 79% of front-end sales, compared with 68% in fiscal 2012.
On the cost front, the company is focusing on generating cost savings through centralized indirect procurement of drugs and reduction in supply chain costs. We believe that these programs and initiatives will facilitate the company to increase its customer base and generate long-term profitability. Our stance is supported by Rite Aid’s strong performance in the past three quarters.
Apart from Rite Aid, other stocks such as The Kroger Co. (KR - Analyst Report), Loews Corp. (L - Analyst Report) and Rogers Corp. touched new 52-week highs of $41.14, $47.94 and $60.90, respectively, on Sep 20.