Investors like Jana want Walgreen to consider expanded stock buybacks and changes to the company's retail operations and balance sheet as a means to improve overall profitability.
Jana believes better performance in the front-end of Walgreen's stores where non-pharmacy goods are sold such as beer, deodorant and the like, could help improve the company's margins. Compared with peers, Walgreen's appears to be lagging, with EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margins about a third lower than its biggest rival, CVS Caremark. Alliance Boots EBIT margins, meanwhile, are roughly double those of Walgreen's.
It is still unclear what changes Walgreen is willing to consider and what may prove too complex or risky in the eyes of the company's board of directors. On Tuesday, Walgreen said it would detail operational, management and capital structure changes this summer.
"Walgreens board of directors is moving forward toward consideration of the second step in the Walgreens-Alliance Boots strategic transaction, including determination of timing and structure, combined management teams, cost reduction initiatives and potential changes in the company's future capital structure," Walgreen said in its fiscal third earnings on Monday.
The most controversial decisions are likely to surround management decisions of the combined company and whether or not to incorporate abroad. Walgreen CEO Gregory Wasson wouldn't directly say whether the company announces an inversion transaction in July or August.
"We are looking at everything. It is complex and it is all interdependent," Wasson said of the company's future.
Because Walgreen will be unveiling what may amount to sweeping change later this summer, the company is suspending its fiscal 2016 guidance. However, Walgreen did confirm synergies in its merger with Alliance boots will exceed $1 billion by 2016. Jana, at a recent conference, noted that the initial $1 billion synergy guidance appeared to be conservative.
Walgreen shares were trading over 2% in early Tuesday trading on the company's weak third quarter results. Shares, however, have gained over 25% year-to-date and 50% over the past 12 months.
-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York