WBA closes fiscal 2021 with strong Q4, full-year growth
Walgreens Boots Alliance finished its fiscal year strong with growth in both fourth-quarter and full-year earnings per share. Sales for the quarter totaled $34.8 billion, with full-year sales totaling $132.5 billion, both reflecting solid growth.
“Our fourth quarter and fiscal year results exceeded expectations, driven by strong performance in our core business,” WBA CEO Roz Brewer said. “Comparable U.S. pharmacy and retail sales both saw robust growth and recovery continued in our UK business as COVID-19 restrictions eased in the quarter. I remain extremely proud of our team members' unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of our patients, customers and communities. The role of the pharmacist and local pharmacy is now more vital than ever.”
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For the fourth quarter, WBA posted sales of $34.8 billion, a 12.8% increase from the prior-year period, reflecting growth in its international and American business segments. Operating income from continuing operations was up 22.9% year over year, reaching $1.2 billion — an increase the company attributed growth in gross profit in pharmacy and retail in its U.S. business, as well as strong performance and recovery in the United Kingdom. Earnings per share for the quarter were 41 cents, up 6.4% from the year-ago period.
In the United States, fourth-quarter sales were $28.8 billion, a 6.6% year-over-year increase, with comparable sales up 8.1% year over year. Pharmacy sales increased by 6.7% from the prior-year quarter, with comparable sales up 8.9% from Q4 of fiscal 2020. Scripts filled grew by 8.8% from the year-ago period and was up by 8.6% including immunizations, adjusted to 30-day equivalents. Retail sales were up 6.5% and comparable sales increased by 6.2% compared with the prior-year period. Excluding tobacco sales, retail sales were up 7.2% year over year, which the company said reflected growth in key categories, including health and wellness, which saw a 14% sales boost over the previous-year period. Gross profit for the quarter increased by 14.9% from Q4 of 2020.
WBA’s international segment has $5.5 billion in sales, up 61.8% over the year-ago period and including a favorable currency impact of 9.2%. Boots UK comparable pharmacy sales increased 11.4% year over year while comparable retail sales were up 15% over the prior-year period. Gross profit for the segment was up 43% over Q4 of fiscal 2020.
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For the full year, WBA posted sales of $132.5, a 7.5% increase over its fiscal 2020, with operating income totaling $2.3 billion — more than twice the $982 million in operating income the retailer brought in a year ago. The company said the operating income increase was driven by $2 billion in non-cash impairment charges in the prior-year period, and was partially offset by a $1.5 billion charge from WBA’s equity earnings in AmerisourceBergen in Q1 2021.
Among the company’s milestones in the fiscal year has been the administration of more than 40 million COVID-19 vaccinations and more than 16 million COVID-19 tests. In the United States, Walgreens has increased its starting wage for hourly team members to $15 an hour, with plans to fully implement it by November 2022.
The company also highlighted its omnichannel offering growth — something that contributed to DSNnaming Walgreens its 2021 Retailer of the Year — including curbside pickup and drive-thru, as well as big growth in its myWalgreens membership. Walgreens also launched its Scarlet bank account and debit card, and has ramped up its partnership with iA, with micro-fulfillment centers serving more than 800 locations in Phoenix and Dallas.
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As WBA moves forward, it pointed to its investments in healthcare, including its majority stake in specialty pharmacy company Shields, a strategic collaboration with Blue Shield of California and its continued partnership with VillageMD. There are currently 52 Village Medical at Walgreens primary care practices, with plans to have 80 open by the end of the year.