CVS Health earnings top estimates as Covid vaccinations, testing boost drugstore sales

  • CVS Health outpaced analysts' expectations for first-quarter earnings and revenue.
  • The health-care company raised its full-year earnings forecast.
  • The drugstore chain faced challenging year-over-year comparisons in its retail business due to stock-ups in March 2020, but Covid-19 vaccinations and testing gave its revenue a boost.

CVS Health reported a strong first quarter and raised its full-year forecast, as customers came to its stores for Covid-19 vaccinations, tests and prescriptions.

The company has been a major provider of Covid-19 vaccines and recently began offering same-day appointments for the shots.

Shares of the company were up nearly 3% early Tuesday in premarket trading.

Here's what the company reported for the fiscal first quarter ended March 31, compared with what analysts were expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $2.04, adjusted vs. $1.72 expected
  • Revenue: $69.1 billion vs. $68.39 billion expected

The health-care company and drugstore chain reported net income of $2.22 billion, or $1.68 per share, up from $2.01 billion, or $1.53 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, it earned $2.04 per share, more than the $1.72 per share expected by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Revenue rose to $69.1 billion from $66.8 billion a year earlier. That outpaced analysts' expectations of $68.39 billion.

The company raised its guidance for the year. It said it expects 2021 earnings will range between $6.24 to $6.36 per share, but after adjustments it expects to earn between $7.56 to $7.68 per share.

It reiterated that its full-year cash flow from operations is projected to range between $12 billion to $12.5 billion.

The drugstore chain faced challenging year-over-year comparisons in the quarter in its retail business. During the same period a year prior, customers rushed to fill prescriptions early and stock up on other health-care and personal care items prior to shelter-in-place orders. Virtual visits and home deliveries of prescriptions spiked — and customers tossed more items from the front of the store such as soap and shampoo into their baskets in stores and online.

CVS said Tuesday that it had lower front store sales in the first quarter of this year than a year ago because of accelerated demand in March 2020 and a weak cough, cold and flu season.

Same-store sales across its pharmacy and front store combined were up just 0.4% compared with growth of 9% a year ago. Same-store sales for the front store fell 11.4%.

However, it said its revenue got a lift from Covid-19 testing and vaccinations. It's given the shots at its stores and at long-term care facilities. It said prescriptions filled were about the same for the quarter a year prior on a 30-day equivalent basis.

As of Monday's close, shares of CVS were up nearly 14% this year. They closed at $77.69 on Monday, bringing the company's market value to $101.97 billion.

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