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Why Walgreens Stock Fell 19.3% in December

By Steve Symington - Updated Apr 15, 2019 at 11:58PM

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The pharmacy juggernaut ended 2018 on a low note. Here's what investors need to know.

Check out the latest Walgreens Boots Alliance earnings call transcript.

What happened

Shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance ( WBA 0.10% ) declined 19.3% in December, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, driven by a combination of the broader market's decline, analyst downgrades, and the retail pharmacy chain's fiscal first-quarter 2019 report.

On the former, the S&P 500 declined 9% in December on worries over political strife and slowing global economic growth. But Walgreens' own fall accelerated around the middle of the month, when Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Jones downgraded the stock to sell, arguing that the company's various new partnerships won't be enough to offset falling traffic to its core retail stores.

Stock market prices with colorful charts on an LED display


So what

Shares only slumped further the following week, when Walgreens' quarterly report hit the wires. But its results weren't bad. To the contrary, quarterly sales grew 9.9% year over year to $33.79 billion, while adjusted net income per share grew 14.1% to $1.46. By comparison, analysts' consensus estimates called for earnings of $1.43 per share on the same revenue.

Walgreens executive vice chairman and CEO Stefano Pessina even insisted they were "pleased" with their double-digit percent earnings growth, helped by "solid results in the U.S."

"We continue to focus on investing in transforming our business," Pessina added. "We have made good progress on partnerships, including advancing our collaborations with Kroger, FedEx, and Humana and, earlier this week, we announced an initiative with [Alphabet's] Verily to further expand our healthcare offering."

Now what

Looking ahead, though, Walgreen's also announced a new "transformational cost management program" targeting $1 billion in annual cost savings by the end of its third year. According to Pessina, the company is pursuing the ambitious initiative "to better position ourselves to meet our long term targets."

In short, while Walgreen's might well emerge a more profitable, efficient business for its efforts in the coming years, the cost-management program has only served to spur worries over increasing competition as more consumers turn to online pharmacy alternatives.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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