Will Rite Aid Surprise Wall Street When It Reports Earnings This Week?

Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE: RAD  ) will report its fiscal 2015 first-quarter results on Thursday before the market opens. The drugstore chain has enjoyed an impressive run so far this year, with its stock climbing more than 42% year to date. Patient investors in this brand have been handsomely rewarded as a result. Even with a slight pullback in the stock recently, shares of Rite Aid are currently trading around $7 apiece today. That's a refreshing change of pace from where the stock traded last April, at around $1.70 per share. Nevertheless, Wall Street isn't too optimistic about Rite Aid's pending results for its fiscal first quarter.

Low expectations
Analysts are expecting Rite Aid's profit to decline $0.04 per share from the same period a year ago, with earnings per share of $0.05 in the first quarter. However, if Rite Aid's results are anything like those of the last quarter, it could surprise Wall Street. The pharmacy retailer, after all, beat the Street's fourth-quarter earnings expectations by as much as 50% -- posting a profit of $0.06 per share in the period. 

Looking to the company's fiscal first quarter, analysts are more confident about Rite Aid's ability to generate revenue growth in the quarter.

The Street is looking for Q1 revenue of $6.4 billion, up more than 2% from $6.29 billion in the year-ago period. Yet while some growth is better than none, this is still below the Street's growth projections for Rite Aid's rivals in the space. Analysts expect CVS Caremark to grow its revenue 7% in the current quarter and anticipate more than 5% growth for Walgreen.

Nonetheless, low expectations are a strategy that has worked well for Rite Aid up to this point. In fact, Rite Aid's stock soared more than 12% last quarter after the company topped Wall Street's earnings projections. Moreover, with shares of Rite Aid having pulled back slightly from the stock's 52-week high of $8.62, the stock could rally again this week if the retailer can beat the Street once more.

Therefore, what is driving Rite Aid ahead of the company's earnings?

Smart initiatives could spur sales
Rite Aid's decision to renew its partnership with drug distributor McKesson through 2019 has been one of the catalysts for the company's stock recently. Yet Rite Aid isn't resting on its laurels. In addition to strategic partnerships, Rite Aid is also offering more pharmacy services outside of prescription refills today. This, together with its new Health Alliance initiative, should fuel sales and increase customer loyalty in the quarters to come. 

Rite Aid's Health Alliance program is a major catalyst for the stock. It acts as a referral program in which doctors recommend the program to patients with chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, COPD, and high cholesterol; Rite Aid pharmacists then work with the patient's physician to create a "health care action plan" for managing their condition. Not only does this push new patients into Rite Aid's stores, but it also gives the pharmacy a steady stream of customers who suffer from chronic conditions, and therefore need to refill prescriptions on a regular basis.

Rite Aid's Health Alliance program is currently in four markets. However, the company is in the process of expanding the program into new markets. Ultimately, smart initiatives and strategic partnerships should give Rite Aid long-term momentum, even if it isn't able to surprise Wall Street when it reports earnings this week.

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