McKesson to Get Earnings Boost from Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout

Creating and shipping kits to help medical professionals administer Covid-19 vaccines will boost McKesson Corp.’s full-year earnings, the company said Tuesday. The shares jumped.

McKesson forecast adjusted earnings per share of between $16 and $16.50 a share, up from $14.70 to $15.50. The company’s $568 million contract with the U.S. to produce kits filled with needles, syringes and personal protective equipment is estimated to add 15 to 20 cents to adjusted earnings in the second half, the company said in reporting its second-quarter results.

McKesson will produce 6.6 million ancillary supply kits and 2 million mixing kits under the contract to help vaccinate more than 300 million Americans, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

The Irving, Texas-based company will also be the central distributor for most Covid-19 vaccines under a separate $178 million contract with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The only exception: It won’t handle ultra-cold vaccines such as the one being developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE.

The vaccine distribution program is not included in the full-year forecast given “the uncertainty around timing and volume” for when the vaccines become available, Chief Executive Officer Brian Tyler said Tuesday on a call with analysts.

Shares of McKesson were up 5.2% to $159.94 at 3:33 p.m. in New York trading. The stock had gained nearly 10% this year as of Monday’s close.

“While it’s still early in the process, and a vaccine is not yet approved for distribution, our role in Operation Warp Speed has been and will continue to be our company’s top priority since we were selected by the CDC in August,” Tyler said.

New Facilities, Hiring

McKesson is already the largest distributor of seasonal flu shots, and it served a similar role during the H1N1 vaccination campaign. The company is standing up “several” new facilities and adding “a lot” of new employees to support the Covid 19 vaccine effort, according to Tyler. A McKesson spokesman declined to provide specifics.

The health-care behemoth distributes everything from flu shots, to IV pumps to Lipitor. It supplies everyone from local pharmacies to hospitals and health insurers.

In fiscal year 2020, which ended March 31, McKesson’s revenue topped $231 billion, with U.S. pharmaceutical and specialty sales representing nearly 80%. Covid-19 vaccines will be counted in this segment, while ancillary kits will be included in the medical-surgical unit.

Vaccine Middleman

McKesson will serve as a middleman -- albeit an important one -- in distributing Covid-19 vaccines. It will not decide where to send them. That’s up to states and other jurisdictions, who will receive a specific number of doses from the federal government.

Local health officials are in the process of developing their plans. The CDC has asked them to prepare to start receiving vaccines by Nov. 15 so they are ready when the Food and Drug Administration authorizes one.

Rival distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. are not currently slated to be involved in the effort though both say they are willing to help should the government tap them.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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