PRICELINE EXPANSION HELPS BOOST PHARMA GROUP IN TOUGH RETAIL MARKET

PRICELINE EXPANSION HELPS BOOST PHARMA GROUP IN TOUGH RETAIL MARKET
AUSTRALIAN Pharmaceutical Industries (ASX: API) has reported a 5.4 per cent rise in underlying NPAT of $54.2 million as its Priceline Pharmacy network grew by 20 stores.

Despite the challenging retail conditions in the Australian market, API says it plans to add a further 20 Priceline stores to its network over the next 12 months.

The profit result was slightly ahead of the company's revised full year guidance and for the 12 months to 31 August, API also increased revenue by 5.8% to $4.06 billion.

"API has retained a strong market position in its core businesses, despite the more challenging market conditions we faced during 2017, and we have further improved our balance sheet position," API's CEO and managing director, Richard Vincent says.

"The change in conditions, both consumer sentiment and competitive landscape, has intensified our concentration on core assets, particularly the product and service offering for our store customers."

API operates the Priceline Pharmacy and Soul Pattinson Chemist brands and also operates a pharmacy distribution business.

Its Priceline network grew by 20 stores, up to 462 stores from 442 at the end of last financial year. Retail register sales for the period were up two percent to $1.15 billion with like-for-like store sales down on the previous year by 0.4 per cent. Including dispensary, total retail sales for the network were $2.1 billion for the financial year up by 5 per cent on FY16.

A key driver for the solid results was its pharmacy distribution business which grew revenues by 7.3 per cent to $2.96 billion, but the company remains cautious about its outlook given the downbeat sentiment in retail.

"API expects that the recent trend in consumer sentiment and discretionary spending will not see a significant reversal in the current year," Vincent says.

"The company anticipates that it will continue growth in its Priceline Pharmacy network and expects its pharmacy distribution business to remain stable.

"For some time now, our business decisions have been predicated on an ongoing challenging market in both retail and pharmaceutical distribution.

"Our aim is to further entrench our position through a differentiated offer as a leading mass market health and beauty retailer in Australia and our position as the country's leading pharmaceutical distributor."

The company ended the financial year with no reported net debt, which was achieved earlier than the company's guidance that it would achieve this by calendar year end.

API shares were up by around 3 per cent to $1.63 at around 11am (AEST).

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