Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid – What RE Investors Should Know

There are 3 major drugstore chains in the US: Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid. Below are some key statistics about the 3 major drugstore chains as of 2012:

1. Walgreens ranks first with market cap of $28.51 Billion, $72.2 Billion in 2011 total revenue ($45.1B from prescription revenues), and an S&P rating of A. According to Walgreens, 75% of the US population lives within 3 miles from its stores. In April 2010, it acquired 258 Duane Reade drug stores in New York Metropolitan area which brings a total of 7841 drug stores Walgreens operates as of February 2012, including 137 hospital on-site pharmacies.

2. CVS ranks second with market cap of $56.56 Billion, $107.1 Billion in revenue ($40.5 Billion from CVS prescription revenues and $16.1B from its Caremark prescription mail order revenue), and an S&P rating of BBB+. As of December 31, 2011, www.cvshealthsurvey.com.

3. Rite Aid ranks third (fourth, behind Walmart in terms of prescription revenues) with market cap of $1.49 Billion, $26.1 Billion in revenue ($17.1B from prescription revenues), operates 4714 drug stores as of February 2011 and has an S&P rating of B-.

Investors purchase properties occupied by these drugstore chains for the following reasons:

1. The drugstore business is very recession-insensitive. People need medicine when they are sick, regardless of the state of the economy. Both rich and poor people in the US have access to medicine. Some even argue that low-income people use more medicine due to free or low-cost drugs offered by government-assisted programs. So the tenants should do well during tough time and have money to pay rent to landlords.

2. The drugstore business has a good prospect in the US:

· People are living longer and need more medicine to sustain longevity, e.g. Actonel for osteoporosis, Aricept for Alzheimer’s symptoms. Older people tend to use more medicine than younger ones as they often have more medical problems. As the 78 million baby boomers are getting closer to retiring age starting from 2008, the drugstore chains anticipate the demand for medicine to increase in next 20 years.

· The drug market continues to expand as the US population continues to grow. More and more Americans suffer from various diseases. The number of Americans suffers from seasonal allergies doubled in the last 15 years to 37 million people per Fortune magazine. They spent $5.4 Billion in 2009 for allergy drugs. As their waist lines balloon (75% of Americans are forecasted to be either overweight or obese by 2020), more Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, along with high cholesterol at younger and younger ages. In addition, doctors also recommend treating various diseases sooner than later due to better understanding about the diseases. For example, doctors now prescribe antiretroviral drugs for patients soon after infected with HIV virus instead of waiting for the infection to become AIDS. More doctors combine insulin with oral medicines to treat type-2 Diabetes instead of just oral medicines alone. All these factors increase the size of the drug market.

· Advance in genetic engineering has introduced various new genetic DNA testing kits which allow the genetic diagnosis of vulnerabilities to inherited diseases and disorders. Genetic testing is currently the highest growth segment in the diagnostics industry. Some of these genetic tests will probably transform into direct-to-consumer testing kits available in drug stores in the near future.Upon FDA approval, these new products will potentially bring in additional revenue for drug stores.

· Using a new method of tailoring molecules called structure-based design; drug companies come up with new medicines that they might not have discovered otherwise, e.g. Xalkori by Pfizer to treat lung cancer.

· The passage of Health Care Reform Bill on March 23, 2010 provides insurance coverage to an estimated 33 million more American. This is a great present to the drugstore industry.

· There are new drugs to treat previously untreatable illnesses, and new diseases, e.g. Viagra for men’s unhappiness, Avastin for colon cancer, Herceptin for breast cancer,. The new medicines are very expensive, e.g. a year’s supply of Avastin costs about $55,000. Eli Lilly has sold about $4.8 billion of Zyprexa in 2007 for schizophrenia and yet most people have never heard of this medicine.

· There are existing drugs now approved to treat new illnesses and thus increase their sales revenue. For example, Lyrica was originally intended to treat pain caused by nerve damagein people with diabetes. It is now approved by FDA to treat Fibromyalgia which affects 5.8 million Americans per WebMD.

· Big advances in genetics, biology and stem cells research are expected to produce a new class of drugs to treat diabetes, Parkinson’s and various rare genetic disorders. For example the new drug Ilaris from Novartis targets genetic causes of an inherited disorder that there are only 7000 known cases worldwide. However, Novartis hopes to gradually broaden its drugs to a blockbuster drug to more common disorders caused by similar genetics.

· Technology and modern life introduce and require new products, e.g. pregnancy test kits, Lamisil for stronger clearer toe nails, Latisse for longer & thicker eyelashes, Propecia for male hair loss, Premarin for menopausal symptoms, diabetic monitors, electronic toothbrushes, contact lenses, lenses cleaners, diet pills, vitamins, birth-control pills, IUDs, nutrition supplements and Cholesterol-lowering pills (Americans spent nearly $26B in 2006 on Cholesterol medications alone per IMS Health, a Connecticut-based consulting company that monitors pharmaceutical sales.)

 

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