Is there life without Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (NASDAQ:WBA)? That’s the main question investors of Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE:RAD) continue to ask when deciding what to do with RAD stock, which has gotten crushed this year, falling more than 64%.
As federal regulators drag their feet regarding a decision with the company’s $17.2 billion proposed merger its larger rival, RAD investors have seen nothing but suffering. RAD stock closed Thursday at $2.95, losing almost 4% of its value.
Investors, who have hung on for a huge payday, are understandably second-guessing that decision today. It’s painful to watch. But with such huge losses already on the table, is now the time to bail?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which on multiple times have requested for information, will have to get off the fence at some point. And from my vantage point, regardless of the decision, RAD stock can’t get any worse.
Buying More Time
Understandably, the FTC struggles to green-light a marriage that would combine the second and third largest drugstore chains, which would create a more formidable rival to CVS Health Corp (NYSE:CVS). However, on Tuesday smaller rival Fred’s, Inc. (NASDAQ:FRED), which has worked with Walgreens to acquire the FTC-imposed divested stores, said it remains “optimistic” it will be able to buy up to 1,200 Rite Aid locations and that Rite Aid and Walgreens will to win regulatory approval.
Fred’s ability to acquire the Rite Aid stores is key to this deal. “Looking ahead, we are focused on executing our key objectives for 2017, including diversifying and optimizing our assets to improve performance and cash flow,” Fred’s CEO Michael Bloom said in announcing the company’s first-quarter fiscal 2017 earnings. “In large part we are on track with the Fred’s 2017 plan, and doing exactly what we said we would do to optimize Fred’s Pharmacy’s business model and enhance value for our shareholders.”
Assuming Fred’s can acquire the 1,200 store, Fred’s would then become the nation’s third-largest pharmacy chain. As it stands, all three companies — Rite Aid, Walgreens and Fred’s — maintain they are fighting hard to win FTC approval for a deal that was first announced in October 2015. And as evidenced by the decline in RAD stock, Wall Street has already priced in a “no” vote. In the case of Rite Aid, the company is still showing it has life regardless of what the FTC decides.
In the most recent quarter, revenue rose almost 3% year over year $8.5 billion. And the company reported breakeven adjusted earnings, which beat Street estimates for a 2-cent loss. So, while the continuous drag of the deal has heightened investors’ frustration, it makes no sense to throw up your hands when the finish line is now that much closed.
Bottom Line for RAD Stock
I see an opportunity here for investors to make some strong gains. RAD stock currently trades on the assumption that the company will cease to exist if the Walgreens deal is nixed. And that’s just not the case. Based on Thursday’s closing price of $2.95, versus the consensus price target of $6.20, RAD stock should be accumulated by risk-tolerant investors who are looking for a potential turnaround target in the next 12-18 months.
As of this writing, Richard Saintvilus did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.