I finally had to throw in the towel on CVS Health Corporation (NYSE:CVS) and walk away from the stock. Since its all-time highs in 2015, several headwinds have negatively impacted its growth, and the changing marketplace conditions have plagued the stock. Exacerbating this downward movement from the factors above, Amazon (AMZN) has entered the fray and has resulted in another leg down for the stock. The latter half of 2015 and throughout 2016 the political backdrop was a major headwind for the entire pharmaceutical supply chain from drug manufacturers to pharmacies/pharmacy benefit managers (i.e., CVS and Walgreens (WBA)) and the drug wholesalers in-between (i.e. McKesson (MCK), Cardinal Health (CAH) and AmerisourceBergen (ABC)). Marketplace trends forced CVS to cut guidance for Q4 2016 and the full-year 2017 numbers. CVS stated that “unexpected marketplace actions that will have a negative impact on our Q4 2016 results and a more meaningful impact on our outlook for 2017”. CVS suffered a self-inflicted wound and lost a contract with the Department of Defense which carries tens of millions of prescriptions on an annual basis. A new restricted network relationship between Prime Therapeutics and Walgreens impacts CVS Pharmacy’s participation in selected fully-insured networks in several key states, and many cases make CVS Pharmacy a non-preferred provider for Medicare Part D as well. These prescriptions tend to be the most profitable prescriptions as well. Lastly, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and behind the scenes moves in the healthcare space has incited rumors that Amazon is looking to gain entry into the pharmacy space via leveraging the Whole Foods physical footprint of storefronts. I’ve written several articles contending that CVS presents a compelling investment opportunity in the ever-expanding healthcare space. My investment thesis was based on an aging population, growth in long-term care facilities and the pharmacy benefit management segment. All of this in a backdrop of CVS being highly acquisitive, continuing to deliver earnings growth, revenue growth, growing dividends and has an aggressive share buyback program in place. The wildcard may be the Amazon threat with its first real pivot after acquiring Whole Foods with subsequent potential in entering the pharmacy space as well.
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