Drug store giant Walgreens Boots Alliance is one of the worst stocks in the Dow this year. But shares shot up Tuesday after Reuters reported that the company is considering taking itself private.
Shares of Walgreens popped 3.5% in heavy trading on the report. Rivals CVS and Rite Aid briefly moved off their lows of the day but were still trading in negative territory.
Walgreens, which operates its namesake chain in the US and the Boots brand of pharmacies in the UK and Europe, was not immediately available for comment about the takeover talk.
Reuters said that the company is working with investment bank Evercore Partners on a potential deal. Evercore declined to comment to CNN Business about the report. acquisition of Walgreens would not come cheap for any private equity firm though. The company is valued at about $53 billion and would likely sell for a premium to its current price in an acquisition.Walgreens shares are down nearly 10% this year, making it the second-worst performer in the Dow in 2019 behind only pharma giant Pfizer.
The company has struggled due to concerns that lower-priced generic drugs and a persistent decline in reimbursement rates for medications from state and federal government health care plans are weighing on profits.
The company has also been hit by a crackdown by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA put the company “on notice” earlier this year for selling more cigarettes to minors than any other drug store retailer. Walgreens, along with many other major retailers, announced plans last month to stop selling vaping products though.
And Walgreens — along with CVS and Rite Aid — have all been hurt by increased pharmacy competition from Walmart and Amazon, which now owns online pharmacy PillPack. Walgreens is also getting squeezed in the front end of its stores by the likes of bargain retailers Costco and Dollar General.
If all that weren’t enough, Brexit uncertainty isn’t helping Walgreens either. The company said during a conference call with analysts earlier this year that sales in its Boots UK stores were weak as “consumer conditions in the UK remain challenging.”