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Following better-than-expected fourth-quarter fiscal 2013 results and an impressive fiscal 2014 outlook, shares of Rite Aid Corp. (RAD - Analyst Report) attained a new 52-week high of $2.33 on Friday, Apr 12, before closing at $2.31. This Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) drugstore chain operator had also beaten its previous 52-week high of $2.15 and generated a year-to-date return of 65%.

Average volume of shares traded over the last 3 months came in at approximately 12,156K. Currently, the stock, which has a market capitalization of $2.06 billion, trades at a forward P/E of 30.8x, significantly higher than the industry average of 16.4x.

Driven by the introduction of high margin generic drugs and increased prescriptions at its pharmacy counters, Rite Aid posted a quarterly profit for the second consecutive quarter and a first-yearly profit since 2007.

Rite Aid’s fourth-quarter fiscal 2013 adjusted earnings of 21 cents per share fared better than both the year-ago comparable quarter’s loss of 17 cents as well as the Zacks Consensus Estimate of break-even earnings. Moreover, after reporting a loss for 6 consecutive fiscals, the company posted adjusted earnings of 24 cents per share in fiscal 2013, significantly surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of 41 cents.

The positive earnings in the quarter and fiscal 2013 also benefited from the rise in adjusted EBITDA and lower LIFO charges. Rite Aid, which competes with China Nepstar Chain Drugstore Ltd. (NPD - Snapshot Report), continues to benefit from 9 straight quarters of improved adjusted EBITDA and same store prescription count.

Rite Aid reported adjusted EBITDA of $340.3 million, up 24.0% from $274.3 million in the prior-year quarter. As a percentage of sales, it improved 150 bps to 5.3%, gaining from higher pharmacy gross margin driven by new generic introductions and strong prescription count growth, partially offset by one lesser comparable week.

Further, Rite Aid, which trails only Walgreen Co. (WAG - Analyst Report) and CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS - Analyst Report) in size, anticipates its fiscal 2014 adjusted EBITDA to range from $1.075 and $1.175 billion. Moreover, net income is expected in the range of $45.0 to $200.0 million or earnings per share of 4 cents to 20 cents. Following this, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the fiscal jumped twofold to 6 cents per share in the last 7 days.

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