Walgreens sells remaining stake in Option Care Health for $330M in latest divestiture move

Walgreens Boots Alliance sold its remaining stake in post-acute care and infusion services company Option Care Health for $330 million.

The drugstore chain announced Thursday it sold 10.8 million shares of Option Care Health and plans to use the proceeds primarily for debt paydown, continued support of the company's strategic priorities and to help fund its healthcare-focused business initiatives, according to a press release.

"The transaction is another decisive action WBA is taking to unlock value and further simplify the company’s portfolio," the company said.

Back in March, Walgreens cut its stake in Option Care Health when it sold 15.5 million shares at $30.75 per share. The transaction reduced Walgreen's ownership in the company, formerly known as Walgreens Infusion Services, from 14% to 6%, according to a Walgreens news release. 

The pharmacy retail giant has been reducing its stake in other companies in the past two years as it shifts its focus to providing healthcare services.

Last month, Walgreens sold shares of AmerisourceBergen Corporation, a drug distribution company, for proceeds of approximately $694 million. That came on the heels of another sale of the distributor's stock in December that netted Walgreens about $1 billion. Walgreens said at the time it planned to use the proceeds for debt paydown and to fund VillageMD's acquisition of Summit Health-CityMD. Those transactions reduced Walgreens' stake in AmerisourceBergen to less than 20%.

Walgreens aims to be a point of entry for consumers for healthcare services ranging from urgent care to specialty care and even in-home health. Back in November at the HLTH 2022 conference, Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Rosalind "Roz" Brewer said dispensing of pharmaceuticals was not going to be Walgreens' long-term growth avenue.

"For us, we have been very aggressive and will continue to be to set up a healthcare continuum and deliver healthcare services through a brand that everyone knows and trusts," she told the HLTH audience.

The company has made a number of high-profile acquisitions to pursue this strategy.

Walgreen's VillageMD bought the urgent and primary care chain, Summit Health-CityMD, in a deal worth close to $9 billion. The VillageMD-Summit Health deal will expand Walgreen's reach into primary, specialty and urgent care. The transaction creates one of the largest independent provider groups in the U.S., the organizations said. Combined, VillageMD and Summit Health will operate more than 680 provider locations in 26 markets. 

Walgreens said it would invest $3.5 billion through an even mix of debt and equity to support the acquisition. The company will remain the largest and consolidating shareholder of VillageMD with about a 53% stake.

That transaction also includes an investment from Cigna’s health services business Evernorth.

The drugstore chain also expects to close its acquisition of post-acute and home care company CareCentrix in the third quarter of fiscal 2023. CareCentrix currently manages care for more than 19 million members through over 7,400 provider locations. The company announced plans last year to snap up its remaining stake in CareCentrix for approximately $392 million.

It also closed its acquisition of specialty pharmacy Shields Health Solutions in December.

There has been a frenzy of M&A activity in the past two years as major retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Amazon are ramping up their focus on providing medical services to gain bigger footholds in the healthcare market.

Drugstore rival CVS Health picked up home health and technology services company Signify Health in an $8 billion deal and also recently acquired Medicare-focused primary care provider Oak Street Health for $10.6 billion. Amazon bought primary care provider One Medical for $3.9 billion.

Insurers also have been active in M&A to get a bigger piece of the healthcare pie. UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit has been buying up physician practices

And now the home health bidding wars are heating up as well with Option Care Health as one of the big players. The company is trying to buy home health and hospice firm Amedisys for more than $3 billion.

But it now faces major competition, as earlier this week Optum made an unsolicited all-cash buyout offer for Amedisys