Must-know update: JANA Partners ups stake in Walgreens

Market Realist

Must-know assessment: JANA Partners' positions in 4Q 2013 (Part 5 of 8)

(Continued from Part 4)

JANA Partners increased its position in drug retailing giant Walgreens Company (WAG) from 0.81% to 5.31% last quarter.

Walgreens’ GAAP net earnings for the fiscal 2014 first quarter were $695 million, a 68.3% increase from $413 million in the year-ago quarter. Net earnings per diluted share for the quarter increased 66.1% to $0.72. Walgreens President and CEO Greg Wasson commented on the results, “the year-over-year negative impact related to generics, including the significant shift in the generic wave from a peak a year ago to a trough this quarter as well as our strategic decision to make meaningful promotional investments in our daily living business, affected our margins for the quarter. That said, by continuing our strong focus on managing our expenses, we were able to continue growing gross profit dollars faster than costs during the quarter.”

The company outlined growth opportunities and strategy at its 2014 Annual Shareholders Meeting last month. Chief Executive Officer Gregory D. Wasson said, “We made major acquisitions such as Duane Reade in New York City and drugstore.com, forged a strategic partnership with Alliance Boots and began a long-term strategic relationship with AmerisourceBergen. All of this culminated in a year of solid progress in fiscal 2013 and a five-year total shareholder return for our stock of 145%.” Deerfield-based Walgreens acquired 45% of Swiss-based pharmacy, health, and beauty company Alliance Boots GmbH in 2012 and has the option to acquire the remaining 55% by 2015. Walgreens said its long-term partnerships with Boots and pharmacy services provider AmerisourceBergen Corporation (ABC) helped boost Walgreens to its record sales of $72.2 billion in fiscal year 2013.

Walgreens’ release said that U.S. health care spending is expected to grow from 17% of gross domestic product to 20% by 2020, driven by an aging population and health care reform, which is expected to bring 30 million more people into the system. At the same time, health care is beginning to see a shift in payment models from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance. Walgreens said it is well positioned to play a greater role in these emerging models and expand its role beyond the pharmacy market to the much larger $2.6 trillion health care market.

Walgreens competes with CVS Caremark (CVS), Rite Aid (RAD), and other traditional retailers such as Wal-Mart (WMT). There was analyst speculation recently that Walgreens could benefit from a recent decision by CVS to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products in all its CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide starting October 1 this year. CVS said the decision was made in the interests of its customers’ health. Walgreens declined to say whether it will follow CVS’ example but said that “we will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want.”

About Walgreens

Walgreens scope of pharmacy services includes retail, specialty, infusion, medical facility, and mail service, along with respiratory services. These services improve health outcomes and lower costs for payers including employers, managed care organizations, health systems, pharmacy benefit managers, and the public sector. The company operates 8,200 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Take Care Health Systems is a Walgreens subsidiary that is the largest and most comprehensive manager of workplace health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 750 locations throughout the country.

Read more about JANA’s new 4Q 2013 positions in Must-know: Why did JANA Partners open a position in Equinix?

Continue to Part 6

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