CVS Stock Split History: Is Another Split Coming Soon?

Image source: CVS Health.

The corner drugstore is an American icon, but CVS (NYSE: CVS) has turned it into a big business that spans much further than just a few aisles of sundries in front of a pharmacy counter. CVS has been highly successful over the decades, and its share price has climbed substantially along the way, spurring the company to split its stock several times in its history. Recently, the operator of CVS drugstores and pharmacy benefit management company Caremark has changed its name to CVS Health to reflect its wider scope, and investors want to know if its stock price has climbed enough to warrant another split in the near future. Below, we'll look more closely at CVS' stock splits in the past to see whether a future split is in the cards.

CVS' history of stock splits

Here are the dates and split ratios for CVS stock splits:

Date of Split

Split Ratio

March 15, 1989

2 for 1

June 15, 1998

2 for 1

June 6, 2005

2 for 1

Data source: CVS investor relations.

As you can see, CVS hasn't been aggressive when it comes to stock splits in the past. But it has made them at fairly regular intervals, and over the past 30 years, CVS has generated average total returns of more than 11% annually.

When CVS has historically done stock splits

CVS has followed a fairly traditional stock split strategy in the past. Back in 1989, the healthcare company's stock had climbed into the $80s, and at the time, it was fairly common for companies not to allow their share prices to rise into the triple digits without doing a split. Accordingly, CVS pulled the trigger on a 2-for-1 split that pulled its share price back into the low $40s.

The stock languished throughout much of the early and mid-1990s, paying dependable dividends but providing little capital appreciation. That changed in 1997 and 1998, when the stock climbed dramatically and once again hit the $80 mark. Just a couple months later, CVS was there with another 2-for-1 split, and that sent the stock back toward $40 per share. When the bear market of 2000 to 2002 hit, CVS lost ground and had to work hard in the following years just to get back up to that level.

A change in split strategy

Interestingly, CVS' approach in 2005 was much different. At that point, the stock had just recently climbed back above $50 per share, but the company went forward with a 2-for-1 split at that time anyway.

At the time, then-CEO Tom Ryan said that the CVS stock split decision "was based on the strong growth we have seen over the past few years, and our expectation that the future continues to hold great promise." Specifically, Ryan pointed to CVS' intention to "capitalize on growth opportunities in the retail drug, PBM, mail order, and specialty pharmacy channels."

Is another split coming?

Over the past decade, CVS has gone through an explosive growth period. Its stock price suffered during the 2008 recession and ensuing financial crisis, but thereafter, it more than quadrupled between 2009 and 2014. Last year, the company had what looked like a golden opportunity to follow its past strategy and split its stock, as its share price exceeded $110 for a couple of months.

However, the fact that CVS didn't choose that moment to do a stock split suggests that the healthcare company has likely adopted the same change in philosophy that most companies throughout the stock market now seem to follow. Triple-digit share prices have become much more common, and many companies appear to go out of their way to avoid stock splits in order to have the status of being a high-value successful stock. If that's in fact correct, then it might be a long time before CVS splits its stock again.

CVS has given investors stock splits in the past, and its share price is at a level at which many would think that another split should be coming. Given changes in stock split practice, however, shareholders who want a split might have to wait a lot longer than they would have in the past.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends CVS Health. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.