Analysts Try to Defend Express Scripts After Anthem Contract Loss

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Express Scripts Holding Co. (NASDAQ: ESRX) is among the biggest large cap losers on Wall Street on Tuesday. It’s as if the market bounce doesn’t even matter. With a drop of 10%, Express Scripts just lost about $4 billion in market cap.

The culprit was that Express Scripts announced that it expects to lose its largest client. Anthem Inc. (NYSE: ANTM) intends to move its business elsewhere upon expiration, noting that the pharmacy benefits management agreement is set to expire at the end of 2019.

While the news is of course bad, there are at least two analysts that have defended their views on Express Scripts. These are far less bullish after the loss, but they are still positive.

Jefferies maintained a Buy rating, while cutting its target to $67 from $88 in the call. The firm’s Brian Tranquilut said:

While we are disappointed by Express Scripts’ pending Anthem contract loss and are reducing our price target to $67 to account for lost profits related to the contract, we are maintaining our Buy rating given our view that the Anthem exit was already partly baked into the stock, and the elimination of the Anthem overhang will enable Express Scripts to trade at a more appropriate valuation (i.e., 12.7x FY18 P/E) going forward.

Express Scripts was maintained as Outperform at Credit Suisse as well. The firm’s Robert Willoughby said:

Express Scripts acknowledged that it does not expect Anthem to renew its agreement past 2019. The disclosure on the strength of the base business without Anthem and contributions from the other transitioning clients were truly enlightening, but concerns over how it plans to replace $2.4 billion in 2016 adjusted EBITDA contribution from these accounts should batter the shares. Fortunately, Express Scripts has ample time. Deals that will help fill any Anthem hole are likely.

Several other analyst calls have been seen as well on Tuesday:

  • Merrill Lynch kept a Neutral rating but lowered its price objective to $68 from $77, based on 9 P/E on 2018 EPS (or 14x P/E ex-Anthem).
  • Cowen lowered its target price to $83 from $90.
  • Mizuho maintained its Neutral rating, but lowered the target to $61 from $76.
  • Robert W. Baird has a Neutral rating but lowered its price target to $56 from $73.

Express Scripts shares were last seen down more than 11% at $59.66, but shares had been down as low as $57.80 shortly after the open. Its 52-week trading range is now $57.80 to $80.02. The market cap is now less than $36 billion, and before the bad news the consensus analyst price target from Thomson Reuters was about $80.

The 15.3 million shares that had traded hands by 10:25 am Eastern Time was already more than three-times a full average day’s worth of trading volume.