Company raises full-year outlook
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance’s second-quarter earnings easily beat analysts’ projections, as sales rose 4.6% to $32.8 billion. WBA posted adjusted earnings of $1.21 billion, or $1.40 per share, well ahead of Wall Street’s estimate of $1.11.
The company elevated its full-year guidance to mid-to-high single-digit growth in constant currency adjusted EPS from both total and continuing operations. The revision reflects a first-half performance above expectations and anticipated strong growth in the second half. The situation continues to be fluid due to COVID-19.
“Overall, we have achieved a good financial quarter with results well ahead of expectations, despite significant impacts from COVID-19, and we have raised our full-year EPS guidance,” said new CEO Rosalind Brewer. “I am optimistic about our ability to drive sustainable, long-term value for our shareholders, while acknowledging that there is still work to be done to stabilize the base business. I will continue to review closely all our initiatives, strategies and opportunities to capitalize fully on the incredible potential in front of us. Our team will move swiftly and decisively to best serve the needs of our patients, customers and communities around the world, at this critical time and beyond.”
The sales gain reflected strong International segment growth, aided by the company’s joint venture in Germany, and the United States segment.
Operating income from continuing operations was $832 million in the quarter ended Feb. 28, compared with $1.1 billion in the year-ago period. Adjusted operating income was $1.2 billion, a decrease of 22.5 percent on a reported currency basis and a decrease of 22.9 percent on a constant currency basis. The decreases reflect adverse COVID-19 impacts in the United States and International markets partly offset by cost savings related to the company’s Transformational Cost Management Program.
Total net earnings attributable to WBA, including discontinued operations, increased 8.4 percent to $1.0 billion, reflecting a gain from the sale of a portion of the company’s equity method investment in Option Care Health and a lower effective tax rate driven by discrete items, partly offset by lower operating income. Total adjusted net earnings in constant currency decreased 10.2 percent to $1.2 billion.
Net earnings from continuing operations increased 6.3 percent to $922 million. Adjusted net earnings from continuing operations decreased 12.1 percent to $1.1 billion, down 12.8 percent on a constant currency basis.
EPS from continuing operations increased 8.7 percent to $1.06. Adjusted EPS from continuing operations was $1.26 compared with $1.41 the same quarter a year ago, a decrease of 10.1 percent on a reported basis and a decrease of 10.8 percent on a constant currency basis.
Net cash provided by operating activities was $1.4 billion in the second quarter and free cash flow was $1.1 billion, a $5 million decrease compared to the year-ago quarter.
On Jan. 6, WBA announced the sale of the majority of the company’s Alliance Healthcare business and a portion of the Retail Pharmacy International segment’s businesses in Europe to AmerisourceBergen for $6.5 billion. Upon closing, the company will account for the transaction as a business disposition. Until closing, the related assets, liabilities and operating results will be reported as discontinued operations and are reflected as such in the second quarter results. As a result of the transaction, the company has reorganized its remaining businesses into two reportable operating segments, United States and International. Corporate-related overhead costs are recorded separately and included in consolidated continuing operations.
The United States segment had second quarter sales of $27.3 billion, an increase of 0.4 percent from the year-ago quarter, including the adverse impact of store optimization programs and the 2020 leap day. Comparable sales increased 2.0 percent from the year-ago quarter reflecting a 4.5 percent increase in comparable pharmacy sales and a 3.5 percent decline in comparable front end sales.
Within comparable sales, prescriptions filled in the second quarter decreased 1.1 percent from a year earlier, including a combined negative impact of 480 basis points from an exceptionally weak cough, cold and flu season and reduced doctor visits. Total prescriptions filled in the quarter decreased 2.8 percent. The number of prescriptions filled was 288.5 million, including immunizations, adjusted to 30-day equivalents. Pharmacy sales, which accounted for 74.9 percent of the segment’s sales in the quarter, increased 3.0 percent.
The segment’s retail prescription market share on a 30-day adjusted basis in the second quarter decreased approximately 30 basis points to 20.9 percent, as reported by IQVIA, including the impact of store optimization programs.
Front end sales decreased 6.6 percent in the second quarter , including adverse impacts from the store optimization programs and the 2020 leap day.
Comparable front end sales decreased 3.5 percent, reflecting the weaker cough, cold and flu season, which negatively impacted growth by 350 basis points. Comparable front end sales, excluding tobacco and e-cigarettes, decreased 2.7 percent. Within comparable retail sales, discretionary categories continued to decline, with beauty decreasing 8.8 percent. Excluding the impact of seasonal flu, sales in the health and wellness category increased 9.1 percent.
Gross profit decreased 2.2 percent compared with the same quarter a year ago and adjusted gross profit decreased 3.2 percent, in both cases primarily driven by pharmacy reimbursement pressure, retail volume and pharmacy volume, partly offset by pharmacy procurement, COVID-19 vaccines and testing, and retail margin.
Second-quarter SG&A increased by 3.3 percent, and adjusted SG&A increased by 2.1 percent, reflecting COVID-19 related costs, including approximately $80 million of costs relating to roll-out of the vaccination program, as well as higher growth investments. These increases were partly offset by cost savings related to the Transformational Cost Management Program.
Operating income in the second quarter decreased 21.8 percent to $828 million. Adjusted operating income decreased 18.2 percent, to $1.2 billion, reflecting COVID-19 related impacts and pharmacy reimbursement pressure, partly offset by pharmacy procurement and cost savings from the Transformational Cost Management Program.
The International segment had second-quarter sales of $5.4 billion, an increase of 32.6 percent, including a favorable currency impact of 8.7 percent. Sales increased 23.9 percent on a constant currency basis, entirely due to the company’s new joint venture in Germany, which was consolidated as of November 2020. Excluding incremental sales from the joint venture, International segment sales on a constant currency basis declined 9.9 percent, mainly due to a 17.8 percent decrease in Boots UK sales resulting from COVID-19 related impacts.
Boots UK comparable pharmacy sales increased 3.2 percent, reflecting favorable timing of National Health Service (NHS) reimbursement, and stronger pharmacy services, which mitigated the impact of lower prescription volume.
Boots UK comparable retail sales decreased 17.9 percent. COVID-19 continued to impact footfall, particularly in major high streets, and in train stations and airports. The recovery in footfall trends seen in early autumn was set back by the re-introduction of stricter restrictions beginning in November. However, Boots.com continued to perform very strongly with sales up 105 percent, partially offsetting the reduced footfall.
Boots UK continued to gain market share in the beauty category, but restrictions due to the pandemic impacted all other categories, reflecting the shift in buying habits to one-stop grocery shopping.
Gross profit decreased 9.2 percent, including a favorable currency impact of 4.2 percent. Adjusted gross profit decreased 13.4 percent on a constant currency basis reflecting lower UK retail sales and pharmacy volumes, partly offset by the favorable timing of NHS reimbursement and by incremental gross profit associated with the Germany joint venture.
SG&A in the quarter decreased 7.2 percent to $973 million, including an adverse currency impact of 4.2 percent. On a constant currency basis, adjusted SG&A decreased 9.6 percent. Both decreases reflect short-term cost mitigation actions and cost savings from the Transformational Cost Management Program, partly offset by higher SG&A associated with the formation of the Germany joint venture.
Operating income decreased 24.0 percent to $106 million, including a favorable currency impact of 4.4 percent. On a constant currency basis, adjusted operating income decreased 31.8 percent, reflecting strict COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, partly offset by decisive cost management actions and strong Boots.com performance.