Walgreens Leaders Look to Lighten Village Stake

June 27, 2024
‘We intend to remain an investor and partner,’ CEO Tim Wentworth said of the clinic venture that earlier this year required a massive write-off.

The leaders of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. are preparing to move on from at least some of their investment in primary care chain VillageMD, which plays a vital role in the company’s healthcare delivery strategy.

CEO Tim Wentworth, who took over Illinois-based Walgreens last fall, and his team are calling their plan to shrink their 53 percent stake in Village part of a simplification of their healthcare portfolio that itself is a piece of a broad strategic review. Speaking to analysts on a June 27 conference call discussing Walgreens’ fiscal third-quarter earnings, Wentworth said Walgreens’ leaders plan to retain a stake in the venture, which also includes Summit Health and CityMD and which runs about 520 clinics in more than 15 markets around the country.

“We believe in the future of these businesses and intend to remain an investor and partner,” Wentworth said. “But as part of our persistent focus on value creation […], we are collaborating with leadership toward an endpoint to rapidly unlock liquidity, enhance optionality and position them for additional growth.”

Wentworth didn’t specify just how much of Village he wants to sell or a timeframe in which to do so. Mary Langowski, who Wentworth hired early this year to replace John Driscoll as head of healthcare services, told analysts the company plans to “invest in capital-light services to be a broader partner across the industry—with a range of providers and with a range of payers as well as a range of pharmaceutical manufacturers.”

The call to shed part of Village comes three months after Wentworth and CFO Manmohan Mahajan said they were booking a $5.8 billion charge against profits because of Village’s financial performance and book value relative to other clinic chains. That news came a few months after Wentworth had told analysts and investors he wasn’t planning on buying more primary care assets.

Wenworth and Mahajan on June 27 also announced that their strategic review’s action items include closing or otherwise “repositioning” a quarter of Walgreens’ roughly 8,600 U.S. retail stores. That news and their comments about a still-challenged consumer spending environment sent shares of Walgreens down (Ticker: WBA) more than 22 percent to $12.19, cutting its market capitalization to $10.5 billion, half its level of last October.

During the three months ended May 31—when Walgreens as a whole booked a net profit of $230 million on sales of more than $36.3 billion—Village’s sales grew 7% to $1.6 billion as it clinics recruited more patience. Walgreens’ U.S. healthcare group as a whole, which also includes homecare provider CareCentrix and Shields Specialty Pharmacy, posted a $22 million operating loss, a big improvement from the prior-year period and in line with leaders’ forecasts.

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