Transformation Underway - CVS Health and Aetna Combination

The combination of CVS Health (CVS) and Aetna is proving to be a success after initial skepticism by investors. CVS has broken out recently due to a string of better than expected quarters, in part attributable to the Aetna acquisition. CVS is generating large amounts of free cash flow, paying down debt, and returning value to shareholders in a variety of ways. To further boost long-term growth prospects, restore growth, and fend off potential competition, CVS combined with Aetna. This combination creates the first through-in-through healthcare company, combining CVS's pharmacies and PBM platform with Aetna's insurance business. The new CVS combines its existing pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) and retail pharmacies with the second-largest diversified healthcare company.

This is a bold and hefty price tag to pay yet necessary to compete in the increasingly competitive healthcare space, changing marketplace conditions, and political backdrop with drug pricing pressures. CVS made a defensive yet acquisition required to enable the company to go back on the offensive. CVS had been beaten down for years, plummeting by over 50% ($113 to $52) from its multi-year highs. As of late, CVS has broken out to the mid $70s on the heels of its positive string of earnings. At current levels, CVS presents a compelling investment opportunity while the company is still in the early stages of its CVS-Aetna combination, which drives shareholder returns.

Challenging Backdrop

The pharmaceutical supply chain cohort, specifically CVS, has been unable to obtain a firm footing in the backdrop of consolidation within the sector, negative legislative undertones, drug pricing pressures, rising insurance costs, and a market that has lost patience with these stocks. All of these factors culminated into sub-par growth with a level of uncertainty as the sector continued to face headwinds from multiple directions. Many of the stocks that comprised this cohort presented compelling valuations in a very frothy market. This allure had been a value trap as these stocks continued to disappoint. It's no secret that these companies have been faced with several headwinds that have negatively impacted the growth and the changing marketplace conditions have plagued these stocks. Continue reading "Transformation Underway - CVS Health and Aetna Combination"

CVS Health and Walgreens Finally Breaking Out

CVS Health (CVS) and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) have broken out recently due to a pair of better than expected quarters and speculation of being taken private, respectively. These stocks have been beaten down for years with CVS and Walgreens plummeting by 54% ($113 to $52) and 49% ($97 to $49), respectively, from their multi-year highs. Over $110 billion in combined market capitalization had been erased from these two companies. As of late, CVS has broken out to the mid $70s, and Walgreens has demonstrated strength into the low $60s, well of their respective lows.

The single-payer narrative being pushed by presidential frontrunners and the Amazon threat via its acquisitions of PillPack/Whole Foods potentially displacing traditional pharmacies weighed heavily on these companies. Additionally, drug pricing pressures are eroding margins and limiting margin expansion over time along with the secular decline in the physical storefront retail space is hindering foot traffic and same-store sales growth. The culmination of all the aforementioned factors resulted in CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance being pressured in many different directions. With threats coming from all angles, these two pharmaceutical supply chain heavyweights are not only surviving but competing and reviving their dominance in the marketplace.

CVS’ Recent Rise

CVS is fresh off back-to-back quarters that have beat analysts’ expectations while generating large amounts of free cash flow, paying down debt and returning value to shareholders. To further boost long-term growth prospects, restore growth, and fend off potential competition, CVS acquired Aetna. This creates the first through-in-through healthcare company, combining CVS's pharmacies and PBM platform with Aetna's insurance business. The new CVS combines its existing pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) and retail pharmacies with the second-largest diversified healthcare company. This is a bold and hefty price tag to pay yet necessary to compete in the increasingly competitive healthcare space, changing marketplace conditions and political backdrop with drug pricing pressures. CVS is making a defensive yet necessary acquisition before it can go back on the offensive moving into the future. The acquisition will provide CVS with more scale to negotiate for better prices for the prescription drugs it sells through its PBM business. Continue reading "CVS Health and Walgreens Finally Breaking Out"

Will CVS Health and Walgreens Survive?

Is it the single payer narrative being pushed by Democratic Presidential frontrunners? Is it the Amazon threat via its acquisitions of PillPack and Whole Foods that may displace traditional pharmacies? Is it the drug pricing pressures that are eroding margins and limiting margin expansion over time? Is it the secular decline in the physical footprint storefront retail space that’s hindering foot traffic and off-the-shelf purchases? Regardless of whether or not it’s singularly attributable to one of these factors or the culmination of all the aforementioned factors, CVS Health (CVS) and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) are being pressured in many different directions. CVS and Walgreens have plummeted by 53% ($113 to $53) and 46% ($97 to $52), respectively from their multi-year highs. Over $110 billion in combined market capitalization has been erased from these two companies. With threats coming from all angles, will these two pharmaceutical supply chain heavyweights be able to not only survive but compete and revive their dominance in the marketplace?

Backdrop and Market Dynamics

The pharmaceutical supply chain cohort, specifically CVS and Walgreens, are simply unable to obtain firm footing in the backdrop of consolidation within the sector, negative legislative undertones, drug pricing pressures, rising insurance costs and a market that has lost patience with these stocks. All of these factors culminate into sub-par growth with a level of uncertainty as this sector continues to face headwinds from multiple directions. Many of the stocks that comprised this cohort presented compelling valuations in a very frothy market. This allure has been a value trap as these stocks continue to be a falling knife. It’s no secret that these companies have been faced with several headwinds that have negatively impacted the growth and the changing marketplace conditions have plagued these stocks. Continue reading "Will CVS Health and Walgreens Survive?"