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AmerisourceBergen Corp (COR 0.61%)
Q1 2020 Earnings Call
Jan 30, 2020, 8:30 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good morning and welcome to the First Quarter 2020 AmerisourceBergen Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Bennett Murphy, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Bennett S. Murphy -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you. Good morning and thank you all for joining us to this conference call to discuss AmerisourceBergen's fiscal 2020 first quarter results. I'm Bennett Murphy, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations, and joining me today are Steve Collis, President and CEO; and Jim Cleary, Executive Vice President and CFO.

On today's call we will be discussing non-GAAP financial measures. Reconciliations of these measures to GAAP are provided in today's press release and also available on our website at investor.amerisourcebergen.com. We've also posted a slide presentation to accompany today's press release on our investor website.

During this conference call, we'll make forward-looking statements about our business and financial expectations on an adjusted non-GAAP basis, including but not limited to EPS, operating income, and income taxes. Forward-looking statements are based on management's current expectations and are subject to uncertainty and changes. For a discussion of key risks and assumptions, we refer you to today's press release and our SEC filings, including our most recent 10-K. AmerisourceBergen assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements on this call. It cannot be rebroadcast without the expressed permission of the company.

You'll have the opportunity to ask questions after today's remarks by management. We ask that you limit your questions to one per participant in order for us to get to as many participants as possible within the hour.

With that, I will turn the call over to Steve.

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you and good morning to everyone on today's call. Today I am pleased to discuss AmerisourceBergen's strong fiscal 2020 first quarter results. We delivered solid performance across both the Pharmaceutical Distribution and Global Commercialization Services & Animal Health groups, each delivering year-over-year growth in the first quarter. Revenues were up 5% to $48 billion for the quarter and our adjusted diluted EPS was $1.76 for the first quarter, an increase of 10% compared to the previous fiscal year period.

Before we provide more details on our first quarter results, I want to take a few moments to discuss the ongoing opioid litigation and the decision to exit the PharMEDium business. AmerisourceBergen and other parties continued the complex process of working toward a global resolution of the opioid litigation, while also continuing to prepare for upcoming trials. We are hopeful that the necessary parties understand and see the merits of the global framework as a practical path for global resolution. As we engage in discussions related to the global framework and continue to litigate, we are unable to comment deeply on these matters at this time. AmerisourceBergen remains committed to transparency and providing shareholders with updates as we are able.

Moving on to PharMEDium. At this point last year, we detailed how we had begun a comprehensive strategic and financial review of PharMEDium and engaged new cGMP expert consulting firm to work with the business's new seasoned [Phonetic] leadership team. As we stated at that time, we entered this review phase with a focus on pursuing a thoughtful and decisive course of action that was best for AmerisourceBergen and our shareholders, while respecting both the needs of our customers and other stakeholders.

Over the past year, we worked internally to optimize the business, continued discussions with regulators, and reached an agreement on the terms of a consent decree for PharMEDium with the FDA focused on remediating the business. Despite this progress, we still face considerable challenges in order to successfully move the business forward, including: ongoing regulatory challenges; continued operational issues; inability to make sufficient progress on remediation; and the continued financial burden of running the business. Given these factors, we made the difficult decision to shut down and exit the PharMEDium business. The decision is a difficult one and we are mindful of the impact this has on our associates and customers. We want to thank all PharMEDium associates for their dedication, and we are appreciative of their efforts.

As part of the shutdown process, we will provide impacted associates with the support and services they need. We are also disappointed that PharMEDium will no longer be able to serve its customers but believe exiting the business is appropriate path forward for AmerisourceBergen and its shareholders. Jim will provide financial details, including the decision's impact on fiscal 2020 guidance, later in the call.

Turning now to our first quarter results. AmerisourceBergen continues to benefit from our unique pharmaceutical-centered strategy that positions us well within the US market. Additionally, the company's core strengths and capabilities regarding our unrivaled talent [Phonetic], expertise, and ability to provide comprehensive solutions continues to differentiate us from our peers. I want to thank our associates for their dedication, executional excellence, and focus on consistently creating and delivering value for all of our stakeholders. I am proud to work alongside our teams who remain relentless in their pursuit of opportunities to unlock value for pharmaceutical manufacturers, healthcare providers, and the patients they serve.

Within Pharmaceutical Distribution Services, the segment's success reflects its continued focus on customer experience, in addition to our ongoing strength in specialty distribution and overall growth in customer volumes. AmerisourceBergen is the leader in specialty distribution and our strong growth continues to be fueled by our deep expertise and key customer relationships, on organically growing market with favorable demographics, and increased pharmaceutical utilization resulting from innovation within specialty, particularly in the areas of oncology, ophthalmology, and rheumatology.

In these and other therapeutic categories AmerisourceBergen continues to deliver value and provide differentiated services and solutions to key customer segments such as our community physician practice partners. A key differentiator for our specialty business, our ION GPO remains a competitive advantage in our suite of offerings to oncology physician practices. As a market-leading GPO for community oncologists, ION provides physicians with the contracting, analytics, and business practice solutions they need to run their practices more efficiently and profitably. At the same time, we continue to see positive early signs for biosimilar utilization. We believe that the right conditions exist in the US for increasing biosimilar commercialization success.

We continue to see signs that legislators and commercial plans are recognizing the potential of biosimilars to create better access and affordability for patients. AmerisourceBergen's market-leading position in specialty strongly positions us to benefit from biosimilars. We have aligned ourselves with key customers and biosimilar manufacturers understand the value of contracting with ION as they seek to increase utilization of their products. These elements, combined with our scale, efficiency, state-of-the-art distribution network, and competitive sourcing capabilities, position AmerisourceBergen to capitalize on market opportunities.

AmerisourceBergen is also well positioned to seize market opportunities in animal health and pharmaceutical manufacturer services through our Global Commercialization Services & Animal Health group, businesses that comprise approximately 20% of AmerisourceBergen's operating income. Our largest business in the segment, MWI, is a market leader in animal health solutions with the right strategic partnerships and capabilities should enhance operational efficiencies and deliver strong customer experience, while our portfolio of global commercialization services strengthens health outcomes, while supporting pharmaceutical innovation with data-driven solution that advance and support patient access and adherence to therapy.

For example, Xcenda's health economics consulting and FieldTech [Phonetic] team reimbursement support services are helping manufacturers maximize market access for products, while the Lash Group's technology-enabled patient access and adherence solutions are helping to reduce barriers for patients to start and stay on therapy.

Essential to pharmaceutical manufacturers ability to commercialize and improve access to innovative therapies is ability to transport trial products and unique patient treatments like cell and gene therapies on time and at the right temperature. World Courier, the global market leader in specialty and clinical trial logistics, is a trusted solutions part that services these complex needs for manufacturers around the world. Operating over 30 countries, this highly differentiated and innovative business continues to grow and expand. This business delivers unparalleled service offerings for its pharmaceutical partners in clinical trial logistics and commercial services.

For example, World Courier's Cocoon offering is the industry's most dependable and cost-effective refrigerated container solution providing unprecedented reliability and driving strong momentum for the business this year. In addition, World Courier's Nova technology platform further improves operational excellence, scaling to meet the demand and complex requirements of our global customers. Looking ahead, World Courier will continue to design and deploy patient-centric and forward-thinking transport services in new areas like in-home clinical trials making treatments in patients' home possible in virtually every therapeutic area.

I am proud of AmerisourceBergen's role as the global healthcare solutions leader and purpose-driven organization. We are united in our responsibility to create healthier futures and recognize that there is always a patient connected to every product. Pharmaceutical care is still the most efficient form of healthcare and medication adherence provides positive health benefits for patients, while saving lives and the healthcare systems hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Adherence should be the goal for which all healthcare stakeholders are striving. As an enabler of access and creator of additional efficiencies, AmerisourceBergen will continue to engage in constructive dialog around benefit design and rising out-of-pocket cost for patients and the sustainability and efficiency of the healthcare system.

As a leader in the healthcare supply chain, AmerisourceBergen remains well positioned to create sustained long-term value. Execution of our four key strategic pillars, strong customer base, leadership in specialty distribution and services, innovative services and solutions, and proven corporate stewardship positions us well to benefit from market trends within evolving market landscape.

As we move further into fiscal 2020, we will continue to advance our talent and culture and execute on our unique and differentiated business strategy. More than ever, we remain confident in our growth strategy, focused on execution and dedicated to delivering long-term value for our associates, shareholders, partners, customers, and the patients they serve.

Thank you again for your interest in AmerisourceBergen. I will now turn the call over to Jim for a more in-depth review of our first quarter fiscal 2020 results. Jim?

James F. Cleary -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Steve, and good morning, everyone. My remarks today will focus primarily on our adjusted non-GAAP financial results. Growth rates and comparisons are made against the prior year December quarter, unless otherwise noted. For a discussion of our GAAP results, please refer to our earnings release.

As Steve mentioned, we had a strong quarter with solid execution in our Pharmaceutical Distribution segment and continued growth in our Global Commercialization Services & Animal Health. Before I discuss our results in greater detail this morning, I want to take a moment to discuss the GAAP asset impairment charge that we took for PharMEDium as of December 31st and the January strategic decision to exit the business.

First, the GAAP asset impairment for PharMEDium. We updated our recoverability assessment of PharMEDium's long-lived assets as of December 31 and made the determination that the estimated undiscounted future cash flows indicated that the assets should have a lower carrying value. As a result, we calculated the fair value of PharMEDium's long-lived assets using undiscounted cash flow estimates as of December 31st and determined the asset impairment amount to be $138 million.

Second, I'll cover the decision to exit the PharMEDium business. As Steve said, the company has decided to exit the compounding business, and as a result, we'll cease all commercial and administrative operations related to the business. The decision to exit the PharMEDium business was not easy, but it is undoubtedly the right path forward for AmerisourceBergen and our shareholders. As Steve noted, the decision was based on a number of factors, notably continuing regulatory and operational challenges, including PharMEDium's decision earlier this month to suspend production at its New Jersey facility. In addition to the December quarter impairment charge, as a result of the decision in January to exit the business, the company expects to impair the majority of the remaining $55 million of tangible PharMEDium assets and all of the remaining $185 million of PharMEDium intangible assets in the March quarter.

Finally, as a result of the exit, we expect to claim an ordinary income tax deduction and estimate that we will realize a cash tax benefit in fiscal 2020 through fiscal 2022 totaling approximately $500 million to $600 million. This will benefit our GAAP P&L and GAAP tax rate but will not impact our adjusted tax rate. However, it will have a positive impact on cash flows in the years in which the benefit is realized. As it pertains to the adjusted non-GAAP results for the remainder of the year, our decision to exit PharMEDium will have a positive impact on our outlook for fiscal 2020, which I will provide greater detail on in a few minutes.

Turning now to our first quarter results. I'll provide commentary in two main areas this morning. First, I will detail our adjusted quarterly consolidated and segment performance. Second, I will cover our increased fiscal 2020 guidance, reflecting the continued strength of AmerisourceBergen's businesses, a lower share count, and the removal of PharMEDium for the remaining three quarters of fiscal 2020.

We finished the quarter with adjusted diluted EPS of $1.76, an increase of 10%, primarily due to higher operating income and a lower share count. Lower net interest expense was offset by an increase in income taxes. Also, our December quarter of last year had unfavorable bad debt expense, which benefits the current year-over-year comparison by a couple pennies.

Our consolidated revenue was $47.9 billion, up 5%, driven by strong revenue growth in both segments. Gross profit increased 3%, or $40 million, to $1.24 billion. Consolidated operating expenses increased 2% to $748 million. This quarter is an easier comparison on the balance of fiscal 2020 due to a few reasons that we have called out previously. First, we had not yet lapped the healthcare benefit design change that was implemented for calendar 2019. Second, much of the operational synergies related to our fiscal 2018 acquisition of H.D. Smith were captured after the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Additionally, we executed on delivering better-than-expected expense management across the business in the quarter, most notably within the Pharmaceutical Distribution segment.

Consolidated operating income was $495 million, up 5% with our operating margin down one basis point. As I mentioned earlier, there were some favorable items related to bad debt expense comparison, healthcare, and the timing of H.D. Smith synergy capture. Our businesses, with the exception of PharMEDium, are executing well and the strength of our business continues to show through in our financial results as we posted another solid quarter of growth in operating income.

As it pertains to PharMEDium, since the decision to exit the business was made in January, PharMEDium's adjusted operating loss for the first quarter of fiscal 2020 will remain in our full-year fiscal 2020 results. The adjusted operating loss from PharMEDium in the first quarter was $20 million compared to an adjusted operating loss of $14 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2019.

Moving below the operating income line. Net interest expense decreased 26% to $31 million. As a reminder, the adoption of the new lease accounting standard in fiscal 2020 has a favorable impact on the interest expense line as certain build-to-suit leases that were previously accounted for as finance leases are being accounted for as operating leases, resulting in an offsetting unfavorable impact on operating expenses and therefore operating income. In addition to the lower interest expense, we continue to benefit from interest income related to our higher average invested cash balance.

Moving now to income taxes, our adjusted income tax rate was 21%, up from 19.9% in the prior-year quarter, which benefited from a discrete state income tax item. Our diluted share count decreased 3% to 207.5 million shares. In the December quarter, we used opportunistic share repurchases to return $135 million of capital to our shareholders. While on the topic of returning capital to shareholders, this morning we also announced that the company's Board of Directors approved a dividend increase of 5%. AmerisourceBergen has a balanced approach to capital deployment, and as evidenced by share repurchases and dividend increase, we have exhibited our ongoing commitment to returning capital to shareholders.

Regarding free cash flow and cash balance, in the December quarter we had free cash flow of $76 million as we experienced normal seasonality in the business and remain on track for hitting our adjusted free cash flow guidance. Adjusted free cash flow in the quarter was $134 million. As a reminder, the company defines adjusted free cash flow as net cash provided by operating activities, excluding significant unpredictable or non-recurring cash payments or receipts relating to legal settlements minus capital expenditures. We ended the quarter with $3.2 billion in cash, of which $1.1 billion was held offshore and the majority was US denominated cash.

This completes the review of our consolidated results. Now I will turn to our segment results, beginning with Pharmaceutical Distribution Services. Segment revenue was $46 billion, up 5%, as the segment continues to benefit from continued strength in the specialty distribution of specialty products in multiple channels and the growth of our customers overall. Our segment operating income increased 5% to $392 million. We continue to be encouraged by our team's ability to execute and deliver value for our partners, both upstream and down, particularly in our specialty physician services group.

As I mentioned earlier, the segment did benefit from favorable bad debt expense compared to the previous year quarter as well as the year-over-year comparison of no longer operating the H.D. Smith distribution centers that we began transitioning to our existing distribution network in the second quarter of fiscal 2019.

I will now turn to the other segment, businesses that focus on Global Commercialization Services & Animal Health, including World Courier, AmerisourceBergen Consulting, and MWI. In the quarter, revenue was $1.8 billion, up 10%, driven by 8% growth for MWI and double-digit growth in Global Commercialization Services. From an operating income standpoint, this group had operating income of $104 million, up 6%, driven by growth in Consulting and World Courier.

The group is off to a solid start, and we are encouraged by the growth expectations for the business this year. The Global Commercialization Services and Animal Health group is a positive differentiator for AmerisourceBergen. As we look out into the future, we are focused on being leaders in providing key manufacturer services to support pharmaceutical innovation, and we are investing to fortify our strength and overall value proposition through projects like Fusion at Lash and Nova at World Courier. Additionally, MWI has continued to strengthen its customer relationships and commercial partnerships and is focused on execution to further enhance efficiency.

This completes the review of our segment results. Let me now turn to our fiscal 2020 guidance. As we said in this morning's press release, we are raising our fiscal 2020 EPS guidance from a range of $7.30 to $7.60 to an updated range of $7.55 to $7.80, which implies EPS growth of 6% to 10% and reflects the company's continued strong performance, opportunistic share repurchases in the first quarter, and our exit of the PharMEDium business which represents slightly less than half of the guidance increase.

Regarding operating income, we now expect to grow consolidated operating income in the mid-single digit percent range to reflect the continued strength of our overall business and the year-over-year favorability of not having PharMEDium losses in our adjusted operating income results for the balance of the year. We now expect the operating income in Pharmaceutical Distribution Services segment to grow in the mid-single digit percent range. As a result of exiting the PharMEDium business, our fiscal second, third, and fourth quarters will have a favorable comparison to the respective fiscal 2019 quarters in which we recorded adjusted PharMEDium operating losses of $14 million, $9 million, and $18 million, respectively. In total, the fiscal 2020 adjusted operating loss from PharMEDium is solely what we recorded in Q1, $20 million. The total adjusted operating loss from PharMEDium in fiscal 2019 was $55 million. Therefore, the exit of PharMEDium results in a fiscal 2020 operating income tailwind of $35 million versus the prior year.

Since we will not be revising our previously reported adjusted non-GAAP operating results, we are providing this additional level of detail as part of our focus on being as transparent as possible on the financial impact of the PharMEDium exit and providing key information for your modeling purposes.

Regarding share repurchases, given the level of share repurchases in the December quarter, we now expect to finish the year around 208 million weighted average shares outstanding. Lastly, while we do not have specific guidance metrics, broadly speaking, both brand and generic pricing are trending relatively in line with our original expectations for the year.

Regarding our fiscal second quarter EPS expectations, while we do not provide quarterly guidance, I will note that our second quarter EPS growth is likely to be at the low end of the 6% to 10% EPS guidance growth range for the year as we expect an increase in our operating expense growth in the quarter. On our second quarter call last year, I noted that there were some positive general and administrative expense items that benefited that quarter. We do not expect those items to repeat in 2020.

In closing regarding PharMEDium, our review has been both thoughtful and decisive, but there comes a point in time where you have to make a decision that the path you've been on is no longer appropriate and our decision to exit the business is the right path forward from here.

Despite this strategic change, the key differentiators of AmerisourceBergen remain unchanged. We have strong customer relationships in each customer segment, our businesses are focused on execution and bringing innovative services and solutions to our partners. We have leadership in key specialty markets, notably specialty distribution and commercialization services. And finally, AmerisourceBergen is purpose-driven and focused on creating shareholder value through thoughtful corporate stewardship with a balanced and strategic approach to capital allocation and a clear emphasis on advancing our talent and culture. AmerisourceBergen is executing very well across the business. Our value proposition through our partners is undeniable, and we are well positioned to create long-term value for all of our stakeholders.

Thank you for your interest in AmerisourceBergen. Now I will turn the call back to the operator to start our Q&A.

Questions and Answers:


[Operator Instructions] The first question will come from Robert Jones of Goldman Sachs.

Robert Jones -- Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC -- Analyst

I guess just to focus on the pharma segment guidance change and PharMEDium. I guess, Steve, first, maybe could you talk a little bit about whether or not there was a sale process around PharMEDium, any discussions maybe with the FDA about the ramifications or potential ramifications from exiting this business just on thinking about the largest compounding pharmacy business out there? And then you gave a lot of detail, Jim, around the change in the pharma segment guidance as far as the impact in the quarter and the balance of the year from PharMEDium. I guess maybe just to take a step back, did any of your other assumptions change outside of the PharMEDium math you provided as far as thinking about 2Q through 4Q?

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, Bob, I'll start with the PharMEDium question. Obviously a disappointing day for ABC. But I think that Jim's script was excellent. And by the way, I apologize to everyone. I think the quality of the sound was not quite what we would hope and we'll really endeavor to better next time. But I think Jim's comments were excellent. You can see from the financial disclosures, we've displayed a lot of perseverance with this business. And it's just, I think the 503B changes have made it very difficult to scale the business and get to the sort of consistent quality that we, AmerisourceBergen, would like to deliver to our customers.

And we continue to experience ongoing regulatory challenges and challenges with the remediation program we put in place. We announced on this call that our New Jersey facility recently had to close. And so we really went into this year with an attitude of wanting to protect our profits for our shareholders and other stakeholders. And we had a lot of, I think, perseverance with this business. And I think that we reached this decision and we think that given where the business is, it would be very difficult to enter into a sales process.

We have certainly been in close communication with the FDA throughout the consent decree negotiation and the consent decree implementation. We think that we've approached this as a good stakeholder. We certainly regard regulators as a stakeholder, and we will work collaboratively and transparently with them and professionally with them through the closure.

Jim, you want to answer the second part of the question.

James F. Cleary -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, sure. Bob, the second part of the question, my understanding had to do with guidance impact and other than PharMEDium, which I really went into a lot of detail on in the call, what were the other things that impacted guidance, particularly as it relates to our Pharmaceutical Distribution business. And as I said during my prepared remarks, if you look at our increase in guidance, the exit of the PharMEDium business represents slightly less than half of the guidance increase. And so if you look at the $0.20 increase in guidance at the top end of the range, the exit of PharMEDium represents slightly less than half the guidance increase, the benefit of excluding those losses in Q2 through Q4.

And so that means that the rest of the business is performing quite well, and we are seeing really good performance in the core pharma distribution business. As we talked about, we're seeing a lot of strength in specialty distribution, in particular, our specialty physician services business. We're seeing good volume growth in the Pharma Distribution business. We're seeing 5% volume growth. That's due to, of course, our balanced portfolio of customers. And so we really feel good about our Q1 performance and the impact that that's having on our full-year guidance. And of course, it relates to our Pharma Distribution business you asked about, but also good volumes and good performance in our Global Commercialization Services & Animal Health business, which had 10% revenue growth in the quarter, and so that positively impacts our fiscal year guidance also, Bob.


The next question will come from Eric Percher of Nephron Research.

Eric Percher -- Nephron Research LLC -- Analyst

Continuing with PharMEDium, I know over the last two years it's been pretty clear that hospitals don't particularly want to be in this business, and at one point, this was an effort to extend the hospital relationship. As you shutter it, do you see any impact on the other business that you have focused on the hospital and particularly with respect to the specialty business? How do you help ensure that those relationships don't sour and impact specialty?

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Obviously, of course, we thought about associates and our customers, and unfortunately since the closure of members, we've never really been able to deliver the consistent customer experience that an AmerisourceBergen company would like to have. And there is a lot of reasons for it. And in the six years since of passage of the 503B legislation, I think there was a really strong expectation to move to a very high cGMP standard immediately. And as you pointed out correctly, we were by far the largest. So I think having that leadership position, there were very high expectations that put on us. And I think we really, along with some talented associates, dedicated associates, and some new leadership team, some new outside experts, we really did a tremendous effort to meet the high bar. But there is a lot of -- we do [Indecipherable] lot of powder products in the marketplace. It's hard to reach scale, and there's tremendous consequences if something doesn't go -- if something goes badly, like at least as far as the FDA expectations.

So for ABC, which we have our purpose, we have our stakeholder value set, we just made a decision that this is not a business that really fits into our portfolio. Our customers have been understanding; I think, somewhat disappointed, but I think it reflects the reality of where we are with regulators, where we are with the powder products in this market, where we are with the economics in the overall health system. And again, we don't want to be in a business where we can't provide a very reliable exceptional efficient service. So I think that's about all we can say there.


The next question will come from Lisa Gill with JPMorgan.

Lisa Gill -- JP Morgan Securities LLC -- Analyst

Steve, how are you thinking about IPI pricing? Clearly, specialty is a sweet spot for ABC. But there is a lot of talk about changes around reimbursement. And I'm just curious how you're thinking about that. Do you think anything will change here in your fiscal 2020? What are your conversations with the actual providers in the marketplace, that community-based physician? Just any color you can help us understand how you're thinking about this would be helpful.

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I'd say this is our number two concern is specialty. Our number one concern is physician reimbursement and making sure that that those community staff [Phonetic] can continue to serve patients in the community setting. Manufacturers are obviously another key stakeholder, but they're large, they're sophisticated, and I think that there'll be some very legitimate conversations. And in fact, often when these conversations start, actions change in the marketplace in anticipation of those changes, and I think you see some changes. You've seen very moderate inflation. In fact, on the Part B products, there's always been moderate inflation because of the ASP reimbursement.

So if there is International Reference Pricing, as we discussed in January, Lisa, I hope that it will be a thoughtful transition that it will give manufacturers time to adjust. I think that a lot of noise is not actually factual. The price differentials are not quite as high as one would have you believe and sometimes people tend to take steeper prices and there are a lot of things that are behind the wholesale acquisition cost and ASP with commercial payers that aren't always recognized.

And one thing as well, with government and single payer systems, the price gets negotiated upfront and then there is no changes. So that's one of the nuances that are different in the US system. So complex topic. You can [Indecipherable] even at the CEO level, I'm very engaged and very passionate about it. I saw the head of our government affairs officers today. We're talking about it. Barry Fortner, who heads up our physician services businesses, is in Washington constantly. Our business ION, as you can imagine, is very involved with practice management. So we are going to be a part of the discussion, and we look forward to participating in any changes and hope that are sensible and logical in the context of Part B reimbursement.

Lisa Gill -- JP Morgan Securities LLC -- Analyst

Is it still anticipated that it will be under some kind of competitive acquisition program? And so if that's the case, do you see maybe potential incremental opportunity for ABC? So I understand what you're saying around the pricing dynamic is already starting to change. And so maybe we don't see a huge impact of pricing, but is there the potential for you to either gain or potentially lose some amount of market share around a competitive acquisition program?

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

I feel like we're going back to the '90s with the Medicare Modernization Act. At the time, I think there was great anticipation that ABC with our suite of our businesses, we would participate. And actually it was the 2000s, of course, the Bush administration. And there was no economically feasible way for us to participate. And I'll tell you, we brought in people especially to evaluate CAP provider mainly to ensure that our customers would be able to carry on participating and it was just -- it was impossible to make the numbers work.

We don't believe it's very efficient. We've seen so-called white bagging and brown bagging programs tried to be implemented by different payers, more on the commercial side, and they just haven't worked. And the original CAP program didn't work. So there is potential wastage which with these programs. We believe that the current system works very well with oncologist having the financial responsibility for the preparation of the infusions.

And we will carry on assisting with that. If there were to be a new type of reimbursement and there was differentiated reimbursement or some sort of encouragement to more toward the CAP program, we would look to work with what are some very large, much more aggregate community oncologists. We would look to work with them to provide solutions to payers and regulators.


The next question will come from Glen Santangelo of Guggenheim.

Glen Santangelo -- Guggenheim Securities LLC -- Analyst

Jim, I just want to follow up on the guidance question. I appreciate all the detail. You seem to suggest that over the next three quarters, there will be about a $35 million tailwind from eliminating the losses from PharMEDium, which I understand the EPS impact. But if we could just look at it from an operating income perspective, that $35 million seems to be about a 2% tailwind, which seems like it would fully explain the change in your guidance from low- to mid-single up to mid-single. I'm just trying to understand is there -- has anything changed with respect to your assumptions around the core distribution business because I just want to try to reconcile that versus the much stronger-than-expected first quarter, which seemed to incorporate a bigger-than-expected loss from PharMEDium. So if you could just sort of reconcile those that'd be great.

James F. Cleary -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And so I will cover that. And you're right, we indicated that PharMEDium is a $35 million tailwind year-over-year versus last year. And so that's kind of the benefit that we'll see year-over-year compared to last year. And as we look at guidance, as I said before, taking PharMEDium out of the last three quarters, it's about half the increase to guidance.

And we are seeing strength throughout the businesses. Of course, guidance is a range. So going from the low- to mid-single digits, PharMEDium was a big part of that, but we're also seeing strength throughout the businesses that's impacting our guidance increase also, and it's pretty broad based. We talked about specialty physician services, but we're seeing strength throughout the business.

One thing that I'll mention, as you talked about the first quarter. During the first quarter, one thing we benefited from is low growth in operating expenses. Our operating expenses grew 2% during the first quarter and that included some year-over-year benefits, which we don't expect to continue through the rest of the year. And so that was a favorable experience on bad debt expense, favorable experience on our internal healthcare costs. There is a benefit design change in calendar year 2019 that we were still benefiting from year-over-year. And then also the operational synergies related to consolidating the H.D. Smith distribution centers.

And so that's kind of one thing which benefited the first quarter, which doesn't continue for the rest of the year. And then as we said, the second quarter -- we're expecting the growth in the second quarter, the EPS growth, to be at the lower end of our 6% to 10% EPS growth range, because last year we had particularly favorable operating expense experience in the second quarter, which we are expecting to repeat in the second quarter of this year. And so I think that gives you some additional color there, Glen.

Glen Santangelo -- Guggenheim Securities LLC -- Analyst

Yeah. That's all really helpful. Thanks, Jim. And Steve, I just wanted to follow up with you with one quick question on the balance sheet. As of this quarter, you have about $900 million in net debt, and based on your free cash flow assumptions, you're going to be cash -- have positive cash on the balance sheet here in the next two to three quarters. And so I'm just kind of wondering with PharMEDium now in the rearview mirror, has any -- have your thoughts changed at all with respect to the balance sheet or capital deployment priorities and how should we think about that going forward?

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

No, we've had a very consistent capital deployment strategy. I think last year we returned -- in fiscal year 2019, we returned $1 billion to shareholders of which was approximately 30% dividend, 70% share buybacks and that's approximate numbers. And we like to have financial flexibility. So our first option is to invest in the business, and we're bullish about projects like Fusion, for example, and we talked about the strong growth of World Courier, which in part is because of the Nova and the Cocoon investments.

So those are good investments. And a couple years ago we were making tremendous investments with ABC order and the distribution networks. Those are very good examples of core business investments. We remain interested in that. We are of course -- our replenishment center in Ohio is a good example of another core investment that we're doing. So that's the first priority.

We then look -- we'd look at the right sort of acquisitions. Unfortunately, it's been really a seller's market, and the quality of I think if we found really the right asset and the management team was convinced that we had in our company with a leadership position, with the right sort of a fit for our customers, and the patients and physicians that we support, I think we could be talking to paying significantly more than our multiple because we understand that that's probably it's what's required in this market. But we really haven't seen the sort of asset and that motivates us.

It's about two years ago since we acquired H.D. Smith with close to $1 billion. That's worked out really, really well. There's not really opportunities on the regional side. So, we just haven't seen great opportunities. I think where we're interested is in the commercialization services, expansion of the MWI business. That could be something we're very interested in. We've made a couple more investments in our Brazil and Canadian businesses where we have a solid presence, management team that we can invest behind. So those all things.

And then, of course, we'll continue to be very thoughtful where we're increasing our dividend we announced this morning. So you'll continue to see us be very thoughtful about returns to shareholders. I hope that makes sense.


The next question will come from Charles Rhyee of Cowen.

Charles Rhyee -- Cowen and Company LLC -- Analyst

Steve, I think earlier on you talked about biosimilars and sort of the growth there. If you look at the data -- if we look at the data last year, we did see a big -- starting to really see a big uptick in sort of adoption particularly when you look at something like Neulasta or Epogen. How much are you monitoring here, sort of the shift particularly with the biosimilar insulin? Is that an opportunity for you guys because that looks like will be deemed interchangeable? And then if you have any thoughts on when you expect other biologics to become interchangeable? And would that create a market for biosimilars that mimic more of the traditional generics market and perhaps bring more purchasing power back toward the supply chain side?

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Just in general, the biosimilar numbers are encouraging. I think we talked about at the end of fiscal '19 just how the growth in our expectations. And I wouldn't say that trend continues. The numbers are still small, but ABC has we think an important place to play in adoption of biosimilars with the market presence we have particularly in oncology and other specialty markets. Diabetes is a very important market for our Good Neighbor Pharmacy customers because that was sort of complex, chronic conditions are exactly what we think community pharmacy is very well set up to play a role in. So definitely we'd be interested.

I think one of the ways and I'm really proud ABC has developed is on our sourcing side. We have I'd say over the last decade or so since I moved up here, we've really invested lot of resources there. We have very proficient people on the manufacturing side that really are working I think very competently and positioning us well for the long term to be the key player in biosimilar adoption, particularly on the injectable and infusible side.

So we like what we see, and it's something that we monitor very, very closely and are staying close to, as you would expect. We regard it as one of the key opportunities that ABC has for the next couple of years, so thanks.


The next question will come from Ricky Goldwasser of Morgan Stanley.

Ricky Goldwasser -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

So one guidance question and one just follow up on PharMEDium. So on the PharMEDium side, if we think about PharMEDium from a pro forma basis and we just kind of like exclude the losses that you incurred from them last year, what would be the pro forma EBIT growth for the Pharmaceutical Distribution segment? So that's on them.

And then secondly, if we think about kind of like your guidance for the remainder of the year, it seems that the top line guidance seems to be skewed toward an acceleration 2Q to 4Q, if you think about the midpoint from what you reported in the first quarter. So where are you seeing that incremental growth coming from? Is it additional volume coming from existing customers? I know that last quarter we talked about the potential of gaining more business from Cigna or anything else that you're seeing in the marketplace, maybe on the specialty side, that you can provide color on that drives the acceleration for the rest of the year.

James F. Cleary -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And so we're seeing broad-based growth across the business, seeing particularly strong growth in specialty distribution, but really broad-based growth in many parts of the business. We have called out the Cigna volume being added to Express Scripts, which is -- we indicated that that is approximately one quarter of our revenue growth. And while it's inherently lower margin business, it is positive for growing revenue and operating income dollars. But we're seeing growth in several businesses. And as you noted, we're seeing particularly good growth in our Global Commercialization Services & Animal Health business.

And then you asked about growth if we exclude PharMEDium. And I think we provided, Ricky, really good detail on that in our prepared remarks that the impact on PharMEDium if we're looking year-over-year, is a $55 million adjusted operating loss last year and this year in our adjusted results will be $20 million adjusted operating loss. And so if we look year-over-year, it is a $35 million tailwind to the business, but we are seeing excluding that good growth throughout our various businesses, in particular, our specialty distribution business, but throughout the business.


The next question will come from Steven Valiquette of Barclays.

Steven Valiquette -- Barclays Capital, Inc. -- Analyst

So just a question on the financial hurdle on the sale versus shutdown decision for PharMEDium. And I guess to my mind I feel like any asset that was arguably worth $2.6 billion in the marketplace only four years ago would still have some value today, either in the hands of private equity or another strategic buyer. I'm guessing that the private transaction value of PharMEDium today is probably not zero dollars. What I wanted to just sort of dig into quickly here is, generally speaking, should we conclude that the cash tax benefits of $500 million to $600 million that ABC is receiving from shutting it down that outweigh the benefits of any after-tax proceeds you might have received in the sale transaction, or would you have gotten or received those cash tax benefits even in a low-price sale transaction? I'm just trying to better understand what was the financial hurdle on the sale versus shut decision that was probably something well above zero dollars, but I just wanted to understand that a little bit better.

James F. Cleary -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. We felt that the business was not saleable due to the ongoing regulatory challenges, continued operational issues, continued challenges to achieving the remediation timetable which was extending, and the continued financial burden of running the business. And so due to that we made the decision to shut the business down as the most appropriate path forward for AmerisourceBergen and our shareholders. As you noted, we do have that cash tax benefit of $500 million to $600 million that we'll recognize between fiscal year '20 and fiscal year '22. That will benefit our GAAP P&L. It will not benefit our adjusted P&L. But there will be a benefit to cash flow over that -- over that time period.


The next question will come from George Hill of Deutsche Bank.

George Hill -- Deutsche Bank AG -- Analyst

I've got a quick follow-up kind of on the balance sheet outlook. And Steve or Jim, I guess, can you talk about whether or not you guys feel the need to kind of war-chest cash in anticipation of an opioid settlement? Or do you guys feel like you have continued flexibility to put money to work in the opioid settlement that we -- I guess people expect to occur at some point is kind of own-bucket [Phonetic], so to speak?

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

No, as I said, our priorities for capital deployment are -- I detailed them. We don't feel the need to war-chest at all, because if you look at the framework that was announced, it was an 18-year settlement. So I think that's in anticipation of this sort of long-term characteristics of the industry for not only us but our peers, our competitors as well.

So again that's the proposed framework, but that's a sort of framework that we'd be interested in. So it's a sort of -- it really plays [Indecipherable] long-term, which also has the benefit of providing consistent support for the patient services that we think will be needed to transition population health management for this crisis, so in a way, if you want to call it that.

So no, it's not -- we don't feel the need at all. It is a lot of cash in absolute terms. In relative terms, it's relative to a couple of hundred million dollars a day [Phonetic] in sales. It's not that much. And some of it is out the country. And there is tremendous seasonality in our business as well. So we like being in a strong cash position, but again we are mindful of fair returns to our shareholders and the internal and external opportunities that may be in the marketplace.

So with that, I think we are going to close this first quarter call, and we appreciate your interest in AmerisourceBergen. I must say that this is probably the most difficult decision that we have made since I became CEO almost nine years ago. And the management team has really tried to persevere with this business, but it's -- and it's been a very difficult decision. And we are, of course, especially conscious of the impact on our customers and our associates who we are committed to treating with utmost respect and transparency and dignity.

But I think it's incumbent on us to talk about the key strengths and the key differentiators of AmerisourceBergen, which remain unchanged, as I think Jim commented on so well in his remarks. So as we stand here today, commercially, we have extremely strong customer relationships, partnerships, and leadership in key markets and services. Culturally, we are a purpose-driven organization that feels united in [Phonetic] our responsibility to create healthier futures and AmerisourceBergen, I can assure you, is focused on creating long-term growth and value for all its stakeholders. And again, we thank you for your time and attention this morning. Have a good day. Bye.


[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 59 minutes

Call participants:

Bennett S. Murphy -- Senior Vice President, Investor Relations

Steven H. Collis -- Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

James F. Cleary -- Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Robert Jones -- Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Eric Percher -- Nephron Research LLC -- Analyst

Lisa Gill -- JP Morgan Securities LLC -- Analyst

Glen Santangelo -- Guggenheim Securities LLC -- Analyst

Charles Rhyee -- Cowen and Company LLC -- Analyst

Ricky Goldwasser -- Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC -- Analyst

Steven Valiquette -- Barclays Capital, Inc. -- Analyst

George Hill -- Deutsche Bank AG -- Analyst

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