Retail

There's Plenty for Investors to Like About Walgreens

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (NASDAQ: WBA) reported fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year 2020 results before markets opened Thursday. The drugstore chain reported quarterly adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.02 on net sales of $34.7 billion. In the same period a year ago, Walgreen reported EPS of $1.43 on revenue of $33.95 billion. Fourth-quarter results also compare to the consensus estimates for EPS of $0.96 and $34.37 billion in sales.

For the full fiscal year, Walgreens reported EPS of $4.74 and sales of $139.5 billion, compared to 2019 EPS of $5.99 and sales of $136.87 billion. Analysts were looking for EPS of $4.68 and revenue of $139.71 billion.

Walgreens estimated that COVID-19-related effects cost the company about $0.46 per share in the quarter. Lower U.S. pharmacy gross profits and higher bonus payments also weighed on earnings.

In the fourth quarter, the company spent $269 million on its transformational cost management initiative, running the annual total up to $793 million, nearly doubling the $477 million Walgreens spent on the program in 2019. The program gets credit for partially offsetting the impact of the pandemic on profits. According to the company, the transformation program is “on track” to deliver more than $2 billion in annual cost savings by fiscal year 2022.

In its outlook statement, Walgreens guided adjusted EPS growth in the low single digits on a constant currency basis. First-half results are expected to continue seeing negative effects from the coronavirus outbreak, but the company expects “strong” EPS growth in the second half of the 2021 fiscal year.

Analysts have a consensus first-quarter EPS estimate of $1.03 on revenue of $34.91 billion. For the full fiscal year, they’re looking for EPS of $4.80 and sales of $142.86 billion.

Walgreens shares have lost 44% of their value over the past 12 months and 55% over the past three years. The company raised its annual dividend by four cents a share in the fourth quarter to $1.87, yielding 5.21% at the current share price. The company has raised its dividend every year for 45 consecutive years and has paid a dividend in 87 years.

After jumping more than 4% in early premarket trading, shares pulled back a bit to trade up about 2.4%, at $36.77 in a 52-week range of $33.88 to $64.50. The consensus price target on the stock is $40.00, implying a potential upside of 10% on the stock based on Wednesday’s closing price. Shares are trading at about 7.5 times expected 2021 earnings and about 6.9 times expected 2022 earnings.

Most analysts rate the stock a Hold, although both BofA and Goldman Sachs have recent Sell ratings on it and price targets of $37 and $33, respectively.