Walgreens tops estimates as early flu season helps drive sales

Earnings

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Walgreens Boots Alliance on Thursday reported fiscal first-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street’s estimates after an early flu season boosted demand for cough and cold medicine.

The company said it also raised its full-year revenue outlook due in part to its U.S. health-care segment’s just-sealed acquisition of Summit Health. For the most recent quarter, however, the segment’s revenue came in below expectations.

Shares of the company fell more than 6% Thursday.

Here’s how Walgreens did in its first fiscal quarter compared with what Wall Street was anticipating, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.16, adjusted, vs. $1.14 expected
  • Revenue: $33.38 billion vs. $32.84 billion expected

Despite the strong sales, Walgreens swung to an unadjusted loss of $3.7 billion, or $4.31 per share, for the three-month period that ended Nov. 30, compared with net income of $3.58 billion, or $4.13 per share, a year earlier.

The loss was driven by a $5.2 billion settlement Walgreens was ordered to pay for opioid-related litigation after a number of states alleged the company mishandled prescriptions and should’ve realized they were prescribing the ultra-addictive drug too often.

Thanks to an early flu season and strong demand for over-the-counter cough and cold medicine, sales jumped to $33.38 billion, down slightly from $33.9 billion a year earlier. The company also saw a boost in beauty and personal-care sales, which helped offset losses from a dip in demand for Covid vaccines and home test kits, which drove profits in previous quarters.

For the last five quarters, Walgreens has beat Wall Street’s expectations as the ubiquitous drugstore chain continues to transform itself from a pharmacy-led retailer to a broader health-care company.

While the company has made significant investments to bring that vision to life, sales from its U.S. health-care segment fell short of expectations at $989 million but still grew significantly from the prior-year period.

The company is in the process of acquiring CareCentrix, which coordinates home care for patients after they’re discharged from the hospital, and Shields Health Solutions, a specialty pharmacy company.

That’s on top of the $5.2 billion deal it already struck with primary-care provider VillageMD, which has opened 393 total clinics clinics adjacent to Walgreens stores.

Since the end of the last quarter, an additional 59 VillageMD clinics were opened and the program will continue to expand after the provider announced plans to acquire urgent-care provider Summit Health-CityMD for about $8.9 billion. The deal closed Tuesday.

The acquisition led Walgreens to increase its full-year sales guidance to $133.5 billion to $137.5 billion.

Following the news of the Summit Health acquisition in November, Walgreens raised its targets for its health-care segment to $14.5 billion to $16 billion for fiscal 2025, up from the previous target of $11 billion to $12 billion.

The company is also maintaining its full-year earnings per share guidance of $4.45 to $4.65, compared with estimates of $4.50.

The earnings release comes after Walgreens confirmed it would be among the pharmacy chains to offer abortion pill mifepristone after the Food and Drug Administration ruled it can be sold at drug stores.

“We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program,” the company told CNBC late Wednesday.

“We are working through the registration, necessary training of our pharmacists, as well as evaluating our pharmacy network in terms of where we normally dispense products that have extra FDA requirements and will dispense these consistent with federal and state laws.”

Read the company’s earnings release here.

CNBC’s Bertha Coombs contributed to this report.

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