Walgreens could stand to benefit from recent business moves if they are executed well, Deutsche Bank says. Taking a “leap of faith” after a meeting with management and investors, analyst George Hill upgraded the drugstore chain’s stock to buy from hold. He also increased the price target to $50, which implies an upside of 29.9% over Thursday’s close. “We came away from the meeting with increased faith in the company’s ability to execute on its care delivery strategy, which should lead to positive revisions and multiple expansion for WBA shares,” Hill said. Hill said the upgrade reflects a “positively skewed” risk-reward profile, seeing a potential downside of about 10% to 15% compared with a potential upside of 30% of more if the company is successful. The investor focus at the meeting was the deal to acquire Summit/Village MD as the company transitions to health care services. Hill said the deal makes Walgreens one of the largest investor-owned, multi-payer primary care businesses, though UnitedHealth will still remain the biggest. By the end of 2023, Walgreens should have 700 locations and $800 billion in revenue, Hill said. He also predicted the deal would likely sideline the company from large-scale mergers or acquisitions in the next 12-to-18 months as it turns focus to bringing in Summit and Village MD. A “botched” integration could hurt the stock’s value, according to Hill. Hill said Summit has a specialty business that could help Walgreen’s expand its total addressable market. Walgreens could also stand to gain from its focus on New Jersey and New York. Given Walgreens has majority ownership, Hill said it could take Summit public in 2023 through an initial public offering. To be sure, the merger does not solve the company’s long-term goals of “simplifying” the business, he said, as investors will not be able to escape the reporting and accounting complexities that have been an annoyance. Meanwhile, Walgreens also shared initiatives for gaining market share in pharmacy in 2024 as it seeks to capitalize on challenges facing competitors like CVS . Hill said a goal could be to get payers like Cigna, United and Humana to look more to Walgreens when needing prescriptions filled. But he said the pharmacy segment faces “continued risks” coming out of the pandemic after the segment’s relevance shot up as Covid vaccines and boosters were rolled out. — CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.
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