The company now expects next year’s adjusted earnings per share to range from $5.73 to $5.88, reflecting solid year-over-year growth of 11.25% to 14.25%. The bottom end of the range was increased by 5 cents per share from the outlook provided in October. The adjusted guidance excludes the effect of acquisition-related integration costs, and assumes the completion this year of $4 billion in share repurchases.
“Over the past several years, CVS Health has been preparing for the changes in the health care landscape by expanding our extensive suite of leading assets and capabilities,” president and chief executive officer Larry Merlo said at the company’s Analyst Day here. “We are now positioned more broadly than ever with the right strategy across the health care continuum to create real value by enhancing access, driving better health outcomes and reducing overall health care costs. We are the only health care company that is truly channel-agnostic, and we can help drive superior health outcomes as people move through the continuum of care. Our consumer expertise gives us an edge in the increasingly consumer-directed health care environment.”
“We’ve built a one-of-a-kind company, and we’re not standing still,” he added. “Over the past year we have made long-term, value-enhancing investments and introduced innovative new products. We continued to add to our competitive advantage, expanding our core pharmacy business while broadening our reach into new health care channels. We have become an integrated health care enterprise, and we manage the business through an enterprise lens. We hold leading positions in multiple interrelated health care and pharmacy areas, including retail pharmacy, pharmacy benefits management, specialty, infusion, clinical programs, retail clinics, medical claims editing and long-term care. No one is better positioned than CVS Health to respond to the health care challenges that millions of Americans face throughout their lifetimes.”
Key company accomplishments in 2015 included strong financial results consistent with guidance; a strong 2016 selling season for the PBM with $11.5 billion in net new business and a client retention rate of 98%; specialty revenue growth of approximately 33%, outperforming the rapidly growing specialty market; enhanced generic sourcing through the Red Oak Sourcing venture with Cardinal Health Inc.; the acquisition of Omnicare, a leader in long-term-care pharmacy; the acquisition of Target Corp.’s pharmacies and retail clinics; continued advancement of the company’s front-end growth strategies with a focus on enhancing health and beauty offerings, store brands, personalization and digital initiatives; and heightened awareness of the CVS Health brand.
“We know that prescription utilization is projected to continue to grow due to the aging population and a higher incidence of chronic disease,” Merlo said. “But we must also keep in mind that this spend has value, as pharmacy care is the most cost-effective line of defense against mounting health care costs. Furthermore, we have more ways in which we can engage patients and help drive medication adherence, thus improving health outcomes and lowering overall health care costs.”
To address the high cost of prescription drugs, CVS will deliver more than $6.4 billion in incremental savings for pharmacy benefits management clients from 2012 through 2016 through formulary management strategies. Growth in pharmacy costs for clients through September 2015 slowed to 6.4%, as compared to 11.8% for full-year 2014.
In addition, CVS is driving shareholder value with strong earnings and cash flow and disciplined capital allocation. Chief financial officer David Denton said the company expects to deliver free cash flow of $5.3 billion to $5.6 billion and cash flow from operations of $7.6 billion to $7.9 billion. This free cash flow guidance includes approximately $500 million in acquisition-related cash outflows.
The company also announced a 21% increase in its quarterly cash dividend, to 42.5 cents per share on common stock. The increase translates to $1.70 per share annually, up 30 cents. The increased quarterly dividend will be payable on February 2 to shareholders of record on January 22. This marks the company’s 13th consecutive year of dividend increases; since 2011 the compounded annual growth rate in dividends has been 28%.
“We continued to deliver on our promises in 2015, and our 2016 guidance is no exception,” said Denton. “Our outlook for 2016 is nicely in line with the five-year steady state targets we provided in December of 2013, and we continue to target solid enterprise growth and the generation of a significant amount of cash that will be available to enhance returns. We will continue to utilize our free cash flow to drive returns for our shareholders through value-enhancing investments, dividends, and share repurchases.”
“Our strategic framework for enterprise growth is centered on growing our core pharmacy business while entering into new spaces in the health care market,” said Merlo. “While adding capabilities to enhance our core business, we will deepen relationships with payers and providers, enhance patient engagement, continue innovation in drug procurement and supply chain efficiencies and execute opportunistic bolt-on acquisitions.”
“We remain very optimistic about the opportunities that the evolving health care market is creating for CVS Health,” he added. “I firmly believe that we have the right strategy in this evolving market to capitalize on these opportunities and drive long-term, sustainable enterprise growth and shareholder value.”