Rite Aid Investors Got What They Wanted, Unfortunately

There's buyer's remorse. There's seller's remorse. Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD) investors may be experiencing non-seller's remorse.

Shares of the struggling drugstore chain have plummeted 36% since the end of July, hitting five-year lows earlier this month. The company has taken a beating since announcing that it will not be merging with Albertsons.

Rite Aid was set to combine its remaining assets with grocery store giant Albertsons in a new company generating $60 billion in annual sales, but there was plenty of vocal dissent. Several institutional and retail investors argued that the deal undervalued what Rite Aid was bringing to the table. A couple of shareholder advisory firms agreed. They figured that Rite Aid could do better than settling for nearly 30% of the combined company. Some thought it could fare better on its own or try to smoke out another suitor.

We're now six weeks removed from Rite Aid conceding the obvious, calling off the merger just before the shareholder vote that would've rejected the proposal. If investors were expecting Rite Aid stock to bounce back after the merger's undoing, they're now poorer in more ways than one. The stock has surrendered a third of its value, and recent analyst comments have been brutal on Rite Aid's prospects as a stand-alone entity.

Rough crowd

Rite Aid stock hit its lowest level since late 2012 this month after Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Jones reinstated coverage of Rite Aid with a sell rating. He feels that rite Aid on its own -- after the partial asset sale it completed with Walgreens Boots Alliance -- just doesn't have the scale that's necessary to effectively compete in today's cutthroat climate. He set a $1 price target, less than half the price that Rite Aid shares were commanding at the end of July just as the proposed pairing was falling apart.

Last month it was Charles Rhyee at Cowen downgrading the stock days after the failed merger. He felt that the sell-off was warranted in light of the nixed combination. He was concerned about Rite Aid's leverage, even after scoring $4.375 billion in its partial asset sale to Walgreens. He slashed his price target from $2.35 to $1.50, but Rhyee's price target is already higher than where the stock is now.

Glen Santangelo at Deutsche Bank also lowered his Rite Aid price goal last month in the aftermath of the merger's collapse. He feels that the stock's near-term upside will be limited given the challenges within the retail pharmacy industry as operators struggle with declining volume and reimbursement pressure. His new price target of $1.60 is now also well above where the shares are now.

Investors that were ready to vote against the Albertsons deal are probably kicking themselves right now. If they're not, then they should probably be loading up on the stock since it trades at a substantial discount to the price point this summer that they felt wasn't fairly valuing Rite Aid.

It's a hard time for a reality check, but things don't have to end badly for Rite Aid. Rhyee and Santangelo -- the two analysts with $1.50 and $1.60 price targets, respectively -- could upgrade the stock at this point on valuation if they don't just slash their price goals again. A third suitor seems unlikely for a company that's been jilted at the altar twice already this year, but there's always the chance that another buyer comes in looking to buy at least some of Rite Aid's depressed assets.

Rite Aid lowered its guidance last month, and it no longer sees a small profit by the end of the year. Investors will call for a leadership shake-up, and we've already seen Rite Aid buckle to stakeholder pressure this summer. Sometimes investors don't know the power of the battering ram they carry, but it's not over for Rite Aid until, well, it's over.

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Rite Aid. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.