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UPDATE: Pharmacybrands shares gain to three-week high

UPDATE: Pharmacybrands shares gain to three-week high 1H profit climbs 52%

(Update includes share price in lead and 3rd graph, fixes reference to acquisition charge in 2nd graph)

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 28 (BusinessDesk) - Shares in Pharmacybrands rallied to a three-week high after the retail pharmacy and medical centre company lifted first-half profit 52 percent, bolstered by a full six-month contribution from Radius Pharmacy and Radius Medical, acquired in 2011.

Net profit rose to $6.2 million, or 5.11 cents per share, in the six months ended Sept. 30, from $4.1 million, or 3.85 cents, a year earlier, the Auckland-based company said in a statement. The 2011 earnings were eroded by a $1.1 million charge from write-downs and acquisition costs, it said. Sales inched up 0.1 percent to $54.2 million.

The stock rallied 3.4 percent to $1.22, adding to tis 46 percent gain this year. That values the company at $150.2 million.

"In the current six months we have also seen cost savings due to central office consolidation following last year's Radius acquisition," the company said. "The strength of our pharmacy franchise group remains a big focus and we have developed further services to assist franchisee pharmacy revenue growth."

Shareholders agreed to a dividend reinvestment plan, which would let them forgo a cash return in favour of receiving more shares, to let majority shareholders Cape Healthcare and LPL Trustee participate without breaching Takeovers Code requirements.

Cape Healthcare and LPL Trustee each hold a 30.4 percent stake in Pharmacybrands and based on the company paying a similar dividend over the next five years, could potentially increase their respective stakes to 35.1 percent.

The dominant shareholders came out of a 2009 deal when NZX-listed Life Pharmacy, whose brands included Life Pharmacy, Life Metro and Care Chemist, made a $20 million all-scrip offer for Pharmacybrands, the country's then-biggest retail pharmacy group with the Amcal and Unichem brands.

Pharmacybrands' board declared a first-half dividend of 2 cents per share.

Chief executive Alan Wham said the company has been investing in information technology infrastructure to consolidate its e-commerce platforms, and plans to target customers based on their purchasing history.

"This will allow the company to increase the electronic component of its marketing mix over time," he said.

The retail trading environment is still tough, and same-store sales edged lower in the period, Wham said.

"We expect to see the focus placed on cost control to flow through in the form of savings in the second half," he said.


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