CHICAGO - Walgreens Boots Alliance plans to invest $5.2 billion in Chicago-based VillageMD, which provides primary care to patients — the latest move by Walgreens to form partnerships with other companies that get more customers into its stores, even as the retail pharmacy chain continues to cut costs.
The investment will give Deerfield-based Walgreens a majority ownership stake — 63% — in VillageMD. Walgreens previously owned 30% of the company.
Walgreens also announced plans Thursday to try to cut $3.3 billion in costs by 2024, up from an earlier goal of $2 billion by 2022, which the company has already reached.
Walgreens announced plans last year to open at least 600 Village Medical clinics in Walgreens stores by 2025, and said that this investment will speed up that process. Walgreens hopes to open 1,000 of the clinics by 2027, with half of those in medically underserved communities.
Now, 52 of the clinics are open in Walgreens stores. Patients can get health care through the clinics in-person, at home or through telehealth.
The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, pending the conclusion of a waiting period required under antitrust law.
Walgreens’ work with VillageMD is one of a number of partnerships it’s formed in recent years to get ahead of rapid changes in health care as it works to compete with the likes of CVS Health and Amazon.
In September, Walgreens said it would invest $970 million in Massachusetts-based Shields Health Solutions, which is a company that helps hospitals and health systems with specialty pharmacy services. The investment will give Walgreens a 71% ownership stake in Shields.
Earlier, Walgreens partnered with LabCorp to collect samples in stores from consumers for lab testing, and with Kroger Co., to allow customers to order grocery items online and pick them up at some stores.
Walgreens has been doing well financially in recent months, as it also works to cut costs. On Thursday, Walgreens reported a strong fourth quarter, topping expectations. For fiscal year 2021, net cash provided by operating activities was $5.6 billion, up $70 million compared with the previous year.
Walgreens has been seeing more foot traffic in stores after seeing many customers disappear during the early months of COVID-19. Walgreens has had many people in its stores seeking COVID-19 vaccines, and gave 34.6 million COVID-19 vaccinations in fiscal year 2021.
Before COVID-19, Walgreens implemented a number of cost-saving measures, as it worked to adapt to changing consumer habits and deal with pressures related to reimbursements for medications.
Walgreens said Thursday it had cut more than $2 billion in annual costs in fiscal 2021, a year ahead of schedule. Walgreens also laid off more than 100 employees in its Deerfield office in October 2019, and has closed more than 200 U.S. stores.
Cardinals 2021 report card: Hitters were horrid until they were great
He got better as the season progressed and he turned back the clock to his Arizona days. Goldschmidt earned a 6.2 Wins Above Replacement rating by hitting .294 with an on-base plus slugging percentage of .879. He regained his power stroke while hitting 36 doubles and 31 homers. He drove in 99 runs while batting .331 with runners in scoring position and .321 with RISP and two outs. Goldschmidt played Gold Glove defense at first base and made the rest of the infield better in the process.
He bounced back nicely from his 2020 shoulder injury, earning a 4.2 WAR rating while smacking 34 homers and driving in 105 runs. He battled through some lengthy cold spells — like in August, when he hit just .212 overall — but he was a clutch run producer. Arenado hit .329 with runners in scoring position and .355 with RISP and two outs. Also, his aggressive fielding at third base set the tone for this team’s excellent defense.
His late power surge helped him build a 6.3 WAR rating. O’Neill hit .286 with 34 homers and a .912 OPS overall, but 13 of those long balls came during his last 30 games. His aggressive play, excellent range and strong throwing arm helped him earn 12 defensive runs saved above average in left field. And he stole 15 bases in 19 tries while emerging as one of the sport’s most dynamic all-around players this season.
He ran hot and cold after recovering from his rib injury in midseason. Bader was torrid in July (.357, 1.021 OPS), chilly in August (.151, .421), then scorching the rest of the way (.333, .980). He was a consistent fielding force with 15 defensive runs saved above average while displaying tremendous range in center field. And overall he earned 3.9 WAR while hitting .267 and producing a .913 OPS with runners in scoring position.
The grind finally took a toll on him. He suffered a string of nagging injuries, capped by a sore shoulder. Molina’s .252 batting average was his lowest since 2006. But he remained a clutch hitter, batting .327 with runners in scoring position and .316 with RISP and two outs. He remained a deterrent to the running game, throwing out 41 percent of would-be base stealers. Most critically, he helped guide the pitching staff to a strong finish during an injury-marred season.
His rookie campaign was solid across the board. He was an iron man, making 619 plate appearances in 149 games, and he hit .266 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs. The switch-hitting Carlson hit much better from the right side of the plate (.341, .923 OPS) than the left (.243, .739). Overall he finished strong, batting .293 with an .855 OPS and 17 RBIs in his last 30 games. Carlson had eight outfield assists while fielding well in right field and well enough in center.
Edman’s 30 stolen bases tied for fourth in the majors and he had the second-most doubles with 41. But he hit in streaks. After batting .274 and .278 the first two months of the season, Edman hit .221, .247, .302 and .248 in the next four. His overall numbers as a leadoff hitter were unimpressive (.269, .312 on-base percentage), but he was slightly better (.278, .329) when he came up batting first in an inning. His aggressive play made him an adequate defensive replacement for Kolten Wong at second base.
He injected life into the offense when he replaced Paul DeJong as the regular shortstop. Sosa hit .294 with a .795 OPS as a starter and just .111 as a substitute. He was hit by 17 pitches while standing on top of the plate and a resulting wrist injury limited his effectiveness at the end of the season. His tremendous fielding range earned him eight defensive runs saved in his limited playing time, but he committed a couple of spectacular throwing errors while trying to do too much.
He had a rough go in his first taste of the big leagues, going 4-for-26 in his first 10 games. But later in the season he added much-needed offensive depth, hitting .265 with an .833 OPS over 48 games (including 16 starts). In his limited action he hit .346 with runners in scoring position and he was 5-for-13 with three walks, a homer and six RBIs with RISP and two outs. He had good fielding range in the outfield and he swiped a couple of bases as well.
In extremely limited action he hit .265 with a .322 on-base percentage and two stolen bases. Rondon made his mark down the stretch, going 12-for-38 with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs in his last 30 appearances. He became an effective pinch-hitter, going 12-for-39 overall with three homers and six RBIs. He played first, second and third base, plus both corner outfield sports.
Had he stayed healthy, he might have made an impact as a depth player despite his defensive limitations in the outfield. Injuries to Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill could have opened his door. Instead, Dean went 7-for-30 this season with six walks, two doubles, a homer and seven RBIs between injuries.
Yes, he hit for some power again by smacking 19 homers in 402 plate appearances. And DeJong remained a steady fielder at shortstop. But the former All-Star lost his starting job to Edmundo Sosa by falling below the Mendoza Line with a .179 batting average. He actually made 10 appearances in the cleanup spot, where he hit .162. DeJong was awful again in the clutch, hitting .192 with runners in scoring position and .098 with RISP and two outs.
Serving as Yadier Molina’s backup is a thankless job, since it involves much sitting and watching. That’s why the job fell to various veterans over the years. This role has been a tough challenge for the inexperienced Knizner, who hit just .174 with a .517 OPS. As a converted infielder, he is still trying to improve his catching mechanics too.
He got first crack at the fourth outfielder job and failed. Williams hit four homers, including a couple of bombs, but he batted just .160 with 46 strikeouts in 119 at bats. His running speed didn’t convert into great outfield range. On the plus side, he was 3-for-9 with three walks and a hit-by-pitch in 13 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.
He was fabulous for the Washington Nationals after exiting in the Jon Lester trade. Thomas hit .270 for his new team with 14 doubles, seven homers, 27 RBIS and an OPS of .852. But as a Cardinal he went 5-for-48 with 17 strikeouts and 10 walks for a meager .384 OPS in limited fill-in outfield duty earlier this season.
After moving on to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nogowski finally got his first extended look in the big leagues. He hit .261 and drew 11 walks for a .325 on-base percentage. But as a Cardinal he went just 1-for-18 while hitting into some atrocious luck.
After hitting .186 in 2020, he made no discernible adjustments at the plate and hit .169 in 249 plate appearances this season while earning $18.5 million. He hit .193 with runners on base, .171 with RISP and two outs, .179 as a starter and .151 coming off the bench. He capped his nightmarish season by going 3-for-31 with 10 strikeouts from Sept 1 on. In short, Carpenter was arguably the worst player in the sport.