Walgreens Scores Deal With Purchase of Rite Aid Stores

By Richard Teitelbaum Features Dow Jones Newswires

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is getting a better deal on stores it is buying from Rite Aid Corp. than it would have under its merger plan, analysts said.

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Walgreens announced Thursday that it would pay $5.18 billion for 2,186 stores and drop its proposed deal with Rite Aid, which was plagued by antitrust concerns.

"If you look at the purchase price per store, it is paying $2.5 million per store," said Ajay Jain, senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, comparing a preliminary analysis of the new deal with the valuation of the last iteration of the proposed merger.

Under that plan, Rite Aid would have, in effect, sold about 3,600 stores to Walgreens and up to 1,200 to regional chain Fred's Inc.

"All around, it's a pretty good deal for Walgreens," said Vishnu Lekraj, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar Inc., referring to the purchase announced Thursday. "I don't believe they picked up any debt."

Walgreens may already be putting its savings to use. In its fiscal third-quarter earnings report Thursday, the company announced it had authorized a share repurchase program for up to $5 billion.

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A spokeswoman for Rite Aid didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Walgreens declined to comment.

The new deal also achieves many of the same strategic goals Walgreens sought through a merger with Rite Aid.

"With the new agreement [Walgreens] will still gain incremental scale and volume to optimize efficiency, as well as 70% [to] 80% of the geographic coverage of the merger," wrote Charles Rhyee, senior equity analyst at Cowen & Co. in a research note.

One uncertainty is how much Walgreens will have to spend to upgrade the stores it acquires. "The stores could take a good amount of investment," said Mr. Lekraj.

Rite Aid, as part of the new agreement, has an option to purchase its generic drugs through an affiliate of Walgreens at cost for 10 years, Rite Aid said in a statement. The prices it pays will be close to what Walgreens pays for generics.

"It's probably the cheapest source for generics globally," said Mr. Lekraj. "That should help them improve their position to stay in preferred pharmacy networks."

Write to Richard Teitelbaum at Richard.Teitelbaum@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 29, 2017 18:22 ET (22:22 GMT)