Financial Performance

Walgreens Slashes 2019 Outlook, Shares Dip 12%

The company's second-quarter report showed the continuing impact of shrinking generic drug sales on the country's largest pharmacy chains.
Matthew HellerApril 2, 2019

Walgreens Boots Alliance shares had their worst day since August 2014 on Tuesday after the pharmacy chain missed earnings estimates and slashed its outlook for 2019 amid shrinking profits from the sale of generic drugs.

Walgreens CEO Stefano Pessina called the second quarter “the most difficult quarter we have had” since the merger with Alliance Boots was completed in December 2014,” citing “significant reimbursement pressure” from local pharmacies, “compounded by lower generic deflation, as well as continued consumer market challenges in the U.S. and U.K.”

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For the quarter, the company reported adjusted earnings of $1.64 per share, missing analysts’ estimates of $1.72 per share. Revenue came in at $34.5 billion compared to estimates for $34.6 billion.

Net profit decreased 14.3% to $1.2 billion while gross profit dropped 3.2% to $7.8 billion.

Walgreens shares fell 12.8% to $55.36 in trading Tuesday as the company also reduced its 2019 earnings projection to roughly flat, compared with its previous forecast of 7% to 12% growth. “A number of the trends we had been expecting and preparing for impacted us significantly more quickly than we had anticipated,” Pessina told analysts in an earnings call.

“This was truly a terrible [report], as most metrics missed materially,” Evercore analyst Ross Muken said in a note to clients.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, “Shrinking profits from the sale of generic drugs are weighing on the country’s biggest pharmacy chains,” with CVS also issuing a disappointing earnings outlook for 2019.

Walgreens and CVS are also “getting squeezed as they negotiate with pharmacy benefit managers, which choose which drugs to cover and wrest lower prices from drugmakers through rebates. Although CVS owns one of the country’s biggest PBMs, Walgreens doesn’t, leaving it more exposed to onerous demands,” the WSJ noted.

Walgreens overall sales rose 4.5% to $34.5 billion in the second quarter but same-store sales fell 3.8%, reflecting a weak cough, cold, and flu season compared with the previous year.

To boost the bottom line, the company has increased its annual cost-cutting target from more than $1 billion to more than $1.5 billion by fiscal 2022.