Express Scripts (ESRX)

Q3 2011 Earnings Call

October 26, 2011 9:30 am ET


David Myers - Vice President of Investor Relations

George Paz - Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President

Jeffrey L. Hall - Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President


Ross Muken - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Thomas Gallucci - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

John Kreger - William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division

Steven Valiquette - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Lawrence C. Marsh - Barclays Capital, Research Division

Charles Rhyee - Cowen and Company, LLC, Research Division

Robert M. Willoughby - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Lisa C Gill - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division



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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Third Quarter 2011 Earnings Conference Call [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Vice President of Investor Relations, Mr. David Myers. Please go ahead, sir.

David Myers

Thank you, operator, and good morning, everyone. With me today are George Paz, Chairman and CEO; and Jeff Hall, our CFO. Before we begin, I need to read the following Safe Harbor statement.

Statements or comments made on this conference call may be forward-looking statements and may include, but are not necessarily limited to, financial projections or other statements of the company's plans, objectives, expectations or intentions. These matters involve certain risks and uncertainties. The company's actual results may differ significantly from those projected or suggested in any forward-looking statement due to a variety of factors, which are discussed in detail in our filings with the SEC.

For clarity purposes, all numbers we talk about today will be on an adjusted basis. Please refer to tables in our press release for reconciliation of GAAP to the adjusted numbers we will be discussing. The reconciliation of EBITDA to net income can also be found in our earnings release. The earnings release is posted on our website.

At this point, I'll turn the call over to Jeff, who'll discuss our financial results.

Jeffrey L. Hall

Thank you, David. We reported another quarter of strong growth, with EPS up 22% from the prior year and cash flow from operations at $957 million. U.S. claims declined 2% year-over-year, mostly reflecting the current economic environment. This was partially offset by stronger Script performance in Canada, which is a lower margin business. Claims from midyear starts were in line with our original estimates.

The quarter reflects additional spending in both cost of goods sold and SG&A, including acceleration of projects to free up capacity for integration activities next year, investing to support clients and members as they move away from Walgreens and compliance with new regulatory guidance. Spending in these areas is expected to increase in the fourth quarter.

As a result of our aligned business model, gross profit margin increased 7.5%, up from 7.2% last year and 7.1% last quarter. This improvement reflects several factors, including supply chain efficiencies, productivity improvements, increased contributions from generics and the launch of our group purchasing organization, or GPO.

SG&A costs were down year-over-year, reflecting lower management compensation and synergies resulting from the NextRx integration. These items were partially offset by the additional spending this year I referred to earlier. As a result, EBITDA was up 11% over last year, and EBITDA after our adjusted Rx rose to $3.72, up 13%.

During the quarter, one of our accelerated share purchase agreement was settled, resulting in the receipt of 1.9 million additional shares. The remaining ASR agreement is expected to be settled in the fourth quarter, and we anticipate receiving approximately 1.8 million additional shares.

We remain on track to achieve the full year EPS in the range of $2.95 to $3.05, growth of 18% to 22% over last year. In response to our revised earnings guidance earlier this month, we believe sell side estimates for the year are reasonable. After much thought and consideration, we have decided not to provide 2012 guidance at this time. Since the Medco acquisition has not closed, it's too early to provide combined guidance. But based on our continued expectation that the acquisition will close in the first half of next year, we do not believe it makes sense to provide stand-alone guidance.

Stand-alone 2011 results would not be representative for a number of reasons. The halting of share repurchases, significant time and money spent on integration planning, the acceleration of IT and operational projects to free up resources to focus on integration next year and other transaction-related items. Similar to the NextRx acquisition, we will provide combined guidance after the transaction closes. We anticipate closing the proposed transaction in the first half of 2012.

And with that, I'll turn it over to George.

George Paz

Thank you, Jeff, and good morning, everyone. For a quarter of a century, we have focused on delivering innovative solutions to drive out waste and improve health outcomes for our clients and patients.

Our focus on execution has translated into superior growth for our stockholders through our business model of alignment. This focus has not changed. There are several major initiatives underway to reduce costs and improve health outcomes.

As you know, branded drug inflation, utilization and new generics provide significant economic benefits to the pharmaceutical supply chain. Our job has always been to work on behalf of our clients to temper the increase in pharmaceutical costs. We do this by continuously negotiating deeper discounts on drug procurement from our network pharmacies, securing larger rebates from drug manufacturers and obtaining deeper discounts on drugs procured from our mail-order pharmacies.

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