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Walgreens Sinks After an Earnings Beat—Here's Why

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Key Takeaways

  • Walgreens shares sank as the U.S. pharmacy chain cuts its dividend nearly in half.
  • CEO Tim Wentworth said reducing the dividend will help boost cash flow and free up funds for strategic investments.
  • First quarter earnings and revenue exceeded estimates, although retail sales declined.

Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) shares tumbled over 6% in early trading Thursday as the biggest U.S. pharmacy chain slashed its dividend nearly in half, and said it would use the money for other purposes as it faced a “challenging consumer backdrop.”

Walgreens lowered its quarterly dividend to $0.25 from $0.48, a 48% reduction. CEO Tim Wentworth, who took over in October, said that since his tenure began, Walgreens has been “evaluating our options across our strategies and operations, including those related to our capital allocation.” He explained that cutting the dividend will “strengthen our long-term balance sheet and cash position.” Wentworth added that the savings will help the company increase cash flow, while freeing up capital to invest in “sustainable growth initiatives in our pharmacy and healthcare businesses, which we believe will ultimately improve shareholder value.”

The announcement came as Walgreens reported better-than-expected fiscal 2024 first quarter results. The company posted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.66, with revenue rising 10% from a year ago to $36.71 billion. Both exceeded forecasts.

Pharmacy sales were up 10.7% due to "higher branded" drug prices and services. However, retail sales dropped 6.1% on “macroeconomic-driven consumer trends, a 160 basis point direct impact from a weaker flu and respiratory season, and Thanksgiving holiday store closures.” International sales increased 12.4%, and U.S. health care sales gained 12%.

Even with the strong first quarter profit, Walgreens left its full-year EPS outlook of $3.20 to $3.50 unchanged.

Shares of Walgreens were 6.2% lower at $23.99 per share as of about 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday. They had lost close to one-third of their value in 2023 as declining demand for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments limited sales.

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