Walgreens shares fall as coronavirus pandemic hits store sales

April 2 (Reuters) - Shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc WBA.O fell 6% on Thursday after the drugstore retailer reported a steep decline in U.S. same-store sales in the last week of March as customers stayed indoors due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said retail sales in the United States dropped after March 21, before which consumers were stockpiling items in preparation for a lockdown. If the current trend continues, the company said the gains from the early sales bump were likely to be erased soon.

Meanwhile, retail sales at its UK business has plummeted 65% in the last 10 days.

Shares were down 6.2% at $40.37 in early morning trade.

Walgreens executives said the situation was temporary as they fielded several questions from analysts on a conference call.

"We believe the evidence is very clear that discretionary spending will come back, particularly in areas like beauty, which are really well-known for being a place where people spend when things are tougher," Co-Chief Operating Officer Alexander Gourlay said.

The drugstore chain said its results for the second quarter, ended Feb. 29, had exceeded its expectations.

The company said it would revisit its outlook for adjusted profit in the third quarter after having forecast roughly flat growth for the full year.

Excluding items, Walgreens earned $1.52 per share in the second quarter, beating estimates of $1.46 per share, according to Refinitiv IBES estimates.

The company cited strong sales at its retail stores during a tough flu season as consumers stocked up on essentials such as hand sanitizers in face of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra and Trisha Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

((Manas.Mishra@thomsonreuters.com; www.twitter.com/Manasmishra24; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 806749 2709;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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