Express Scripts exit gives Walgreens confidence in Q2

DEERFIELD, Ill. — On the eve of a potential Federal Trade Commission approval of the Express Scripts/Medco merger, Walgreens' underlying fundamentals still are strong, Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson told analysts Tuesday morning. It's that underlying strength that has helped Walgreens in the wake of its exit from the Express Scripts pharmacy benefit network, a factor that impacted Walgreens' net earnings by 7 cents per diluted share for its second quarter ended Feb. 29. Net earnings for the second quarter were $683 million, a 7.7% decrease. Overall net earnings per diluted share were 78 cents, a 2.5% drop from the 80 cents per diluted share reported in the year-ago quarter.

Walgreens projects the annual impact of the ESI exit will be 21 cents per diluted share.

Net earnings per diluted share for the first half of fiscal 2012 ended Feb. 29 were $1.41 per diluted share, a decrease of 0.8% from $1.42 per diluted share in the first half of fiscal 2011. This year’s results include the impact of 9 cents per diluted share from the effect of no longer being part of the Express Scripts network and the impact of 1 cent per diluted share in Drugstore.com operations and integration costs. Last year’s results include the impact of 1 cent per diluted share in restructuring and restructuring-related costs associated with Rewiring for Growth, and 1 cent per diluted share in Duane Reade integration costs. Net earnings for the first half of fiscal 2012 were $1.24 billion, down 6.3%.

Second-quarter sales increased 0.8% from the prior-year quarter to $18.7 billion, while first-half of 2012 sales grew 2.7% to $36.8 billion. Prescription sales, which accounted for 61% of sales in the quarter, decreased 1.7%, while prescription sales in comparable stores decreased 3.9%. The company filled 196 million prescriptions in the quarter, a decrease of 4.2% over last year’s second quarter. Prescriptions filled in comparable stores decreased 4.9% in the quarter.

Front-end comparable store sales increased 2.1% in the second quarter, customer traffic in comparable stores increased 0.7% and basket size increased 1.4%, while total sales in comparable stores decreased 1.5%.

All second-quarter comparable store sales and prescription figures include 29 days in February 2012, Walgreens reported.