CVS Fourth Quarter Sales Rise, Earnings Top Estimates
CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS – $68.65) posted higher quarterly profit from a year ago as it processed more prescriptions and benefited from the introduction of new generic drugs, helping it offset a drop in store visits by customers. CVS, which operates the second largest drugstore chain and a major pharmacy benefits management (PBM) business under the Caremark name, posted revenue in the fourth quarter of $31.83 billion up 4.6% from a year ago and beating analyst forecasts of $32.67 billion. PBM services were up 5.2% and retail pharmacy up 5.6%, which included a decline in “front-end” general merchandise sales of 1.9%. Income for the quarter increased 12.4% to $1.3 billion, compared with $1.1 billion for the same period 2012. Adjusted earnings per share settled at $1.12 vs. $1.14, but a penny above consensus estimates. During the three months ended December, CVS opened 60 new retail locations, closed one retail shop and relocated another 17 CVS/pharmacy drugstores. The company now operates 7,717 locations in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Brazil. CVS also raised its first-quarter profit forecast by $0.07 per share to a range of $1.03 to $1.06, but stuck to its full-year forecast of $4.36 to $4.50 per share. The Street has average earnings for 2014 pegged at $4.47 per share. While the pharmacy landscape is not without challenges, the outlook for CVS down the road is encouraging with the company’s diversification into in-home infusion and its recent collaboration with Cardinal Health’s drug distribution business. Along with an aging population and more people covered under pharmacy benefit plans, the shares are worth holding for the long haul. In addition, CVS’ dividend growth has been impressive with a nearly 22% increase in annual payouts over the past five years with more income growth on the horizon, thus adding to what can be enticing total returns to late decade.