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Buy Walgreens as it ramps up its health care strategy, JPMorgan says in upgrade

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It’s time to buy Walgreens Boots Alliance as it makes notable progress in its health care strategy, according to JPMorgan. Analyst Lisa Gill upgraded the stock to overweight from neutral as the drugstore chain works to revamp its business and focus on health care. “The company has significantly invested in its transformational consumer-centric healthcare strategy, the centerpiece of which is the launch of Walgreens Healthcare, which looks to provide a better experience for customers, improve outcomes and lower overall healthcare costs,” Gill wrote in a Friday note. “The faster than expected ramp in Walgreens Healthcare, creates the potential for the segment to be a material contributor in the medium-term,” she added. Shares of Walgreens have come under pressure this year, down 23%. But the retail pharmacy reported fiscal fourth-quarter results that beat analyst expectations . This month, VillageMD, a primary care company that is majority owned by Walgreens, said it’s acquiring Summit Health, the parent company of urgent care clinics CityMD, for $8.9 billion. Last month, it invested $5.2 billion to take a majority stake in VillageMD, with which Walgreens will open hundreds of doctor offices. Walgreens’ other acquisitions include acquiring CareCentrix , an at-home care company. “We believe the company will be a share gainer in the retail pharmacy space over the longer term and should start to see a more material benefit from the Walgreens Healthcare initiative as we look ahead several years, and we believe a strong balance sheet and cash flow provide flexibility for capital deployment,” Gill wrote. The analyst’s $42 price target is roughly in line with Thursday’s closing price of $40.13. The stock is up nearly 2% in Friday premarket trading. –CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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