Walgreens shares fall even after quarterly results top expectations

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 to close the day at $35.19.

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 expects full year sales of $6.5 billion to $7.3 billion for the segment.

Walgreens 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, including 200 that are 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 business announced plans to acquire urgent-care provider Summit Health-CityMD for about $8.9 billion. The deal closed Tuesday.

The acquisition, plus the better-than-expected sales, led Walgreens to increase its full-year sales guidance by $3 billion to $3.5 billion, bringing it to $133.5 billion to $137.5 billion. It also raised its retail and pharmacy sales guidance by $500 million.

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.

Walgreens Chief Financial Officer James Kehoe told investors the company expects second quarter earnings to be “adversely impacted” by ongoing Covid headwinds, continued investments into their health-care strategy, labor costs for hiring pharmacists and higher tax rates.

Read more: Walgreens says shrinkage has stabilized

By the latter half of the year, the company expects those headwinds to subside significantly and earnings per share to grow around 30%.

Internationally, the company’s U.K.-based drugstore chain Boots saw strong Christmas sales with revenue up 4.6% for the quarter and store traffic up 8%. Kehoe expects the company’s overall international segment will continue to see strong performance and with lower currency headwinds taken into account, Walgreens raised sales guidance from $21.2 billion to $21.7 billion, up $800 million from the prior year range.

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.

(With inputs from CNBC)