CVS Looks to Shed Light on Trump-Effect on PBMs

CVS Caremark (CVS) will report earnings before market's open Thursday, and analysts say they are anxious to see what the company will have to say about its pharmacy benefit management (PBM) business. 

CVS, the retail pharmacy giant that owns the PBM Caremark, will likely provide some clarity on that side of its business and how it is affected by the political drama over health care reform playing out in Congress in the wake of Donald Trump's election. 

"We're looking for some clues on 2017 from the PBM side," analyst John Boylan of Edward Jones said Wednesday. Boylan has a hold rating on the stock. 

Pharmacy benefit managers could lose money as a result of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They could also be under pressure if the Trump administration attacks not only drug companies but other players in the healthcare space for rising medication and device costs. 

"We're looking for basically what they will say around the barricades for PBMs and the value they will deliver the clients," analyst Vishnu Lekraj of Morningstar said. He has a buy rating on the stock, and a price target of $104 per share. 

According to George Hill of Deutsche Bank, investors will specifically be looking at DIR fees, or the money pharmacies pay to participate in pharmacy benefit managers' markets. DIR stands for "direct and indirect remuneration."

"Investors will be looking for additional details on retail script trends, the benefit to the PBM segment from DIR fees and thoughts on the 2017 PBM selling season," Hill wrote in a note. Hill has a hold rating and an $88 price target on the stock.

Basically, what investors are wondering is whether the controversial pairing of a retail pharmacy and a pharmacy benefit manager is actually working. CVS saw a loss on revenue last quarter in its pharmacy services segment as compared to the same period a year prior. "Investors are increasingly questioning whether or not the company's integrated PBM/retailer business model is now working against [CVS], a theme we do not expect to subside any time soon," Hill wrote.

Lekraj, too, said he's also looking for some information on how CVS plans to handle anticipated foot traffic losses. "We also want to know how they will offset some of the foot traffic losses they will expect to see this year," Lekraj said. 

The consensus estimate on earnings is $1.68 per share for the fourth quarter. 

Shares of CVS, which has a market cap of $82.15 billion, closed at $77.03 per share Wednesday, up less than 1% from market's open. 

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Feb. 8 at 4:40 pm ET

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