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Kroger offers 2-for-1 stock split, boosts dividend

BY Gina Acosta

The largest supermarket operator in the United States is on fire, so it makes sense that the Kroger Co. approved its first stock split in 16 years and a 13.5% dividend increase.

The company announced that its board of directors approved an increase to the company's quarterly dividend, a two-for-one split of its common shares, and a new $500 million share repurchase program.

"Today's actions reflect our Board of Directors' confidence in Kroger's long-term performance and ability to deliver growth consistently to our investors," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO. "The stock split will increase the accessibility of our shares and liquidity in the trading of our shares. We are especially excited that the stock split will make Kroger's common shares more accessible to all of our associates."

Kroger's board raised the quarterly dividend to 21 cents per share on a pre-split basis. Kroger has delivered double-digit compound growth in its dividend since it was reinstated in 2006. The company continues to expect an increasing dividend over time.

The board also approved a two-for-one split of its common shares. On or about July 13, each shareholder of record as of the close of business will receive a dividend of one common share for each common share held. This is the fifth stock split in Kroger's history.

The board also approved a $500 million share repurchase program, replacing the prior authorization, which has been exhausted.

"Kroger's strong financial position has allowed the company to return approximately $11.7 billion to shareholders through share repurchases since January 2000," said McMullen. "We remain committed to delivering value to shareholders. In fact, over the last four quarters, the company has returned more than $1.1 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends combined."

Kroger, one of the world's largest retailers, employs nearly 400,000 associates who serve customers in 2,626 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia under two dozen local banner names.

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McKesson continues to focus on access to lives, attracting patients and expanding services

BY DSN STAFF

SAN DIEGO — McKesson has made significant strides in the past year to deliver on the three focal points identified by the wholesaler last year to help grow the businesses of Health Mart member pharmacies and independent owner/operators partnered with McKesson, Mark Walchirk, president of McKesson’s U.S. Pharmaceutical unit, told a record 5,000 attendees during the Opening General Session of McKesson ideaShare 2015.

For example, McKesson has helped gain access to preferred networks, Walchirk said. “We felt very strongly that it was critical to the success of independent pharmacy and to the members of our network to be on that limited access train,” he said. “So we took a very focused approach to really gain access to lives. We gained access to three of the top 10 plans, and I think we have a very differentiated position than some of our competitors in this area.”

McKesson also has made significant investments in Health Mart through promotions, advertising and branding, which helped promote the second key focus identified last year: bringing more patients into the stores. “We get into these networks, now how do we attract patients into these stores so you can care for them and take advantage of that opportunity?” Walchirk asked.

With regard to expanding services, the third focal point from last year, McKesson launched the Health Mart Specialty Solutions initiative. “Specialty products are a tremendous growth opportunity in the United States, and we want to make sure that independents have an opportunity to take advantage of that potential.”

Improvements in those three areas have helped position independents for today’s marketplace and the marketplace continues to grow, Walchirk noted. “We’re in the middle of one of the most dynamic and evolving times in retail pharmacy and certainly healthcare overall.  Brand pharmaceuticals, many new generic launches are coming in the next few years, and specialty continues to grow.”

There are several pressures facing independents, too, Walchirk said, including consolidation in the industry, reimbursement pressure and an ultra-competitive market.

Moving forward, McKesson continues to be focused on three overarching themes to help build the independent’s business: increasing access to lives, focusing on building the Health Mart pharmacy brand and providing tools that help independents better operate their business more efficiently.

Regarding preferred networks, Walchirk noted that McKesson is taking a strategic approach toward joining additional preferred and limited networks. “We understand the implications to reimbursement, and going forward we will certainly be very selective about how we engage the preferred and limited networks,” he said

The investment in Health Mart that McKesson has made has yielded positive growth, with the number of Health Mart stores surpassing the 4,000 mark he said, noting that the franchise group has become much more flexible with dedicated support to help owners succeed.

The third key area of focus going forward is helping independents run their businesses, as productively and efficiently as they can.

Following Walchirk during the Opening General Session, guest speaker and author Josh Linkner discussed the importance of disruptive innovation among the kind of entrepreneurs who operate independent pharmacies. “The power of entrepreneurship can’t be overstated,” he said. “It’s been the one thing that’s taken down some of the greatest organizations in the world.” There are many examples of dominant companies that had refused to react to an ever-changing marketplace and then were subsequently subjected to the kind of disruptive innovation that destroyed their business model. “No matter how successful we were or are, no matter how great our last quarterly results may have been, it’s our responsibility to push the boundaries to innovate — to really be entrepreneurial to take on the big opportunities and the challenges that we’re facing.”

Linkner closed his session by challenging attendees to uncover one idea for creative disruption over the next seven days. “Maybe it’s a display when you walk into your pharmacy,” he said. “Here’s what’s going to happen, ideas start to become contagious. Starting with one idea, you’re going to create a momentum like you’ve never seen before, and that snowball effect will take root and pretty soon you’ll have incredible momentum.”

The session ended with the 2015 Pharmacy of the Year Award given to Marble City Pharmacy of Sylacauga, Ala., by McKesson’s Frank Starn, president of global sourcing, and Steve Courtman, president of Health Mart. (For more information, see the Pharmacy of the Year story.)

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Supreme Court upholds healthcare subsidies

BY Antoinette Alexander

WASHINGTON — In a major victory for the administration of President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court issued on Thursday a 6-3 decision in King v. Burwell, upholding tax credits to help lower income individuals and families buy health insurance.

The tax credits have already helped more than 6 million people obtain health insurance in the 34 states with federally facilitated insurance exchanges.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in delivering the opinion of the Court. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

Responding the ruling, Congressman Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., issued a statement that read: “Today's decision is a victory for America, for families and children across our great nation, and for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The highest court in the land has now ruled — for the second time — to uphold one of the major tenets of this law. As a result of this historic decision, any individual, in any state, will have access to quality, affordable health insurance. This is a proud moment for me, and for all of my colleagues who worked tirelessly to push this legislation to passage and who have continued our efforts to ensure that its implementation is successful.”

Click here to read the entire ruling.
 

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