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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

BUSINESS BRIEFS
5.4M flu shots help lift Walgreens' profits 20%


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A Walgreens employee in New York explains the company's flu shot program to a customer. The company administered 5.4 million seasonal flu shots between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, officials said yesterday.

ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO | September 2009

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Chris Liddell

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NEW YORK Concerned customers got more than 5 million flu shots at Walgreen Co. stores in the fall, helping the company boost its quarterly profit by 20 percent.

The company administered 5.4 million seasonal flu shots between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, compared with 1.2 million in last year's entire flu season, from October to February. The shots cost $24.99 at most Walgreens stores. Demand was strongest in September and October and then slowed last month, although sales could pick up over the winter.

Like other drugstores, Walgreens started giving the shots several weeks earlier than in 2008.

Two-thirds of the people who got flu shots had not filled a prescription at Walgreens in the past six months, the company said Monday.

Walgreens said prescription drug sales also improved, and its pharmacies are taking more market share. But it emphasized that consumers are cutting back on holiday shopping because of high unemployment, hurting sales of items other than drugs.

Walgreens added that it may get a boost as customers make a last-minute rush for Christmas gifts. However, compared with last year, the company said it will offer fewer post-holiday discounts because it is not carrying as many seasonal products.

The Deerfield, Ill., company earned $489 million, or 49 cents per share, in its fiscal first quarter, up from $408 million, or 41 cents per share, a year ago. Excluding 3 cents per share in restructuring costs, the company said it earned 52 cents per share. Revenue rose 9.5 percent to $16.36 billion from $14.95 billion.

FORD OFFERS BUYOUTS TO 41,000 WORKERS

DETROIT Ford Motor Co. has offered buyout or retirement incentive packages to all of its 41,000 U.S. hourly workers as it tries to further reduce its factory workforce.

Ford, the healthiest of Detroit's three automakers and the only one to avoid government aid and bankruptcy protection, still has more workers than it needs to produce cars and trucks at current sales levels, said company spokesman Mark Truby.

He would not say how many workers Ford expects to take the packages, which include cash payments and other incentives such as vouchers to buy cars and short-term health insurance coverage.

Ford currently has 634 blue-collar workers on layoff in the U.S.

GM HIRES MICROSOFT FINANCIAL OFFICER

DETROIT General Motors Co. has hired the chief financial officer of Microsoft Corp. to take over the troubled automaker's books, tapping a cost-cutter who is now widely seen as a potential candidate to be GM's next CEO.

Chris Liddell will become GM's finance chief starting next year and report directly to interim CEO Ed Whitacre Jr., who also is a newcomer to the automaker.

The 51-year-old Liddell is the first permanent top manager hired from outside the company since it left bankruptcy protection in July. Whitacre, who says he wants to shake up GM's slow and rigid culture, has pushed out top executives and promoted younger managers in recent weeks.