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"