Connect with us


Walgreens’ Credit Downgrade by Moody’s: A Rough Transition to Healthcare Services



© Reuters. Walgreens’ Credit Downgrade by Moody’s: A Rough Transition to Healthcare Services

Quiver Quantitative – Walgreens (WBA), a prominent player in the drugstore chain sector, faces a pivotal moment as Moody’s (MCO) Investors Service downgrades its credit rating to junk status. This downgrade to Ba2, two notches into the high-yield category, reflects concerns about Walgreens’ high financial leverage and challenges in its transition to offering more healthcare services. Moody’s notes that Walgreens’ leverage, weak interest coverage, and pressured free cash flow are expected to persist, raising questions about the viability of its new strategy in patient care.

The announcement led to a decline in Walgreens’ shares, reflecting investor apprehension about the company’s financial health and strategic direction. Despite efforts to reduce debt, Moody’s (NYSE:) forecasts that Walgreens’ debt load could peak at around six times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) by the end of the fiscal year 2024. This projection is amidst the company’s transition away from traditional drugstore operations towards a more patient-care-focused model, which has seen significant changes such as store closures and workforce reductions.

Market Overview:
-Walgreens shares tumbled as much as 2.9% following Moody’s downgrade, erasing earlier gains.
-The broader market remained flat, suggesting the downgrade was specific to Walgreens and not indicative of broader economic concerns.
-Other healthcare companies also saw slight declines in their stock prices.

Key Points:
-Moody’s downgraded Walgreens’ senior unsecured credit rating to Ba2, considered high-yield or “junk” territory.
-This reflects high debt relative to earnings and risks associated with the company’s healthcare strategy pivot.
-Walgreens plans to continue deleveraging but expects debt to peak in 2024 before recovering.
-The new healthcare strategy has revealed weaknesses, including losses in the US healthcare business and $7.4 billion in opioid liabilities.

Looking Ahead:
-Walgreens’ future hinges on its ability to successfully execute its healthcare strategy while managing debt and improving operational efficiency.
-The company faces challenges from rising costs and a competitive landscape.
-Failure to address these challenges could lead to further downgrades and financial instability.

Walgreens’ situation mirrors the broader industry trend, with competitors like CVS Health (NYSE:) also experiencing operational pressures due to shifts toward healthcare services. CVS, too, has been managing rising costs in its pharmacy and insurance businesses, leading to a restructuring plan aimed at streamlining operations. These developments highlight the complexities and risks involved as major players in the drugstore sector reorient their business models to adapt to the evolving healthcare landscape.

This article was originally published on Quiver Quantitative

Read the full article here