Is Everybody Underestimating Walgreen?

In spite of strong sales results for June, Mr. Market allowed Walgreen's shares to barely budge. Is this a sign that now's the time to switch to Rite Aid or CVS Caremark, or is there still plenty of room for Walgreen to run?

Jul 8, 2014 at 5:00PM


Source: Wikimedia Commons

After reporting sales results for the month of June on July 3, shares of Walgreen (NASDAQ:WBA) inched up 1% to close at $73.98. Despite the fact that management delivered strong metrics for the month, the modest rise in share price might have some investors thinking that the company's stock is fairly valued. Moving forward, does Walgreen have what it takes to prove Mr. Market wrong, or would it be better to take your money to Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) or CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS) instead?

Walgreen had a blowout month
For the month, Walgreen saw revenue come in at $6.28 billion. This represents an 8.9% increase compared to the $5.77 billion that management reported for the same month last year, and this has been somewhat attributed to the 1% increase in drugstore count from 8,098 locations in 2013 to 8,215 today. However, the biggest contributor to the company's top line growth appears to be its pharmacy operations.


Source: Walgreen

Compared to the same month last year, Walgreen saw its pharmacy sales rise an impressive 13.4%. This can be mostly chalked up to the 11.3% increase in comparable store sales the retailer saw. This was in turn due to a 7.3% improvement in prescription count. Front-end comparable-store sales also came in positive, rising 1.3% compared to 2013's results.

Can Walgreen keep the momentum up?
The past few years have been really good for Walgreen. Between 2009 and 2013, the company's revenue rose 14% from $63.3 billion to $72.2 billion as a higher store count and an improvement in aggregate comparable-store sales positively affected the retailer's operations. Although this growth pales in comparison to CVS's 29% growth rate from $98.2 billion to $126.7 billion, it significantly outpaced Rite Aid, whose top line ticked down from $25.7 billion to $25.5 billion.

WAG Revenue (Annual) Chart

WAG Revenue (Annual) data by YCharts

Moving forward, Walgreen has a lot of opportunities that should benefit it and its shareholders. On top of having a much larger presence than CVS and Rite Aid outside of the U.S. (the latter of which has no international presence), the company's relationship with Alliance Boots provides a huge catalyst for management to capitalize on. In 2012, Walgreen acquired 45% of Alliance Boots, a multi-national health and beauty group, for $6.5 billion. In the event that management still believes in its investment, it may acquire the remaining 55% of it during a six-month window in 2015 for $9.5 billion.

If it purchases the remainder of Alliance Boots (using 2013 sales metrics), Walgreen's revenue will soar from $72.2 billion to $110 billion. Unfortunately, this is still smaller than CVS. With a large amount of revenue coming from overseas, the company would be very well diversified.(Alliance Boots)

Another great opportunity that could send shares rising more is the enormity of its Balance Rewards program. As of the end of its most recent quarter, Walgreen boasted 81 million members under the plan. By enrolling as many people as possible, the retailer hopes to create a dedicated customer base and, in return, provides savings and the opportunity to be rewarded as a result of healthy life choices. In contrast, CVS had a slightly lower membership base at 70 million, while Rite Aid had a more modest 25 million member count.

Foolish takeaway
Based on Mr. Market's response to the news of a blowout month, it seems as though investors had already expected strong results from Walgreen and that management delivered within these expectations. While this could signal a short-term top for the company's shares, the Foolish investor would be wise to consider the strong performance the business has posted in recent years and the amazing catalysts that could propel its stock higher. For this reason alone, the Foolish investor would be foolish to discard Walgreen's prospects moving forward and should analyze the company in greater detail to see if its potential returns make it a bargain at this price.

Why worry about Walgreen?
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Daniel Jones has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends CVS Caremark. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

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Everything else is details. 

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