Qol Co., Ltd. (3034)
Masaru Nakamura, President
Masaru Nakamura, President
Corporate Profile
Qol Co., Ltd.
Security Code
Tokyo Stock Exchange, First Section
Retail Industry (Commerce)
Masaru Nakamura
Headquarter Address
Toranomon 4-3-1, Shiroyama Trust Tower 37F, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Business Description
Qol Group is a major pharmacy operator with its network of stores centered on the greater Tokyo area but also developed nationwide.
Stock Information
Share Price Shares Outstanding Market Cap. ROE (actual) Trading Unit
¥1,777 34,413,100 shares ¥61,152 billion 11.9% 100 shares
DPS (Est.) Dividend Yield (Est.) EPS (Est.) PER (Est.) BPS (Actual) PBR (Actual)
¥20.00 1.1% ¥72.71 24.4x ¥557.42 3.2x
*Stock price as of the close on November 27, 2015. Number of shares outstanding as of most recent quarter end does not include treasury shares.
Consolidated Earnings Trends
Fiscal Year Sales Operating Income Ordinary Income Net Income EPS(¥) Dividend (¥)
FY3/12 66,201 3,308 3,238 1,560 6,211.00 3,175.00
FY3/13 76,783 2,812 2,829 1,349 52.76 20.00
FY3/14 100,966 2,105 2,208 777 25.11 18.00
FY3/15 114,363 4,243 4,262 2,155 63.33 20.00
FY3/16Est. 125,800 5,010 5,000 2,500 72.71 20.00
* Estimates are those of the Company. From the current fiscal year, the definition for net income has been changed to net income attributable to parent company shareholders (Abbreviated as Parent Company Net Income).
* 2 for 1 stock splits were conducted in September 2009 and October 2011, and a 100 for 1 stock split in April 2012.
* EPS and dividend figures have been adjusted to reflect the stock splits.
* A commemorative dividend of ¥10 per share was paid in fiscal year March 2012 to commemorate the listing on the TSE Second Section.
* A commemorative dividend of ¥2 per share was paid in fiscal year March 2013 to commemorate the moving of Qol's listing to the TSE First Section.
This Bridge Report provides a review of Qol Co., Ltd.'s. Earnings results for first half of fiscal year March 2016.
Key Points
Company Overview
Qol is the third largest company in the dispensing pharmacy industry with nationwide operations with the bulk of its stores in the Tokyo and surrounding regions. Traditionally, dispensing pharmacies have been located adjacent or close to hospitals, and been engaged in fierce competition to capture customers. However, Qol maintains close communications with medical institutions to ensure success in its new store opening strategy. In recent years, the Company has pursued partnerships with companies outside of the pharmacy industry to open stores in areas not necessarily close to hospitals, but have well established foot traffic of potential customers. Some of these partnerships include capital ties with LAWSON, Inc. to create "hybrid facilities that combine dispensing pharmacies with convenience stores" in suburban regions, a partnership with Bic Camera Inc. for pharmacies to be opened in near train stations, and a collaborative agreement with West Japan Railway Company Group to open "Station Qol Pharmacies" within trains stations. In addition, Qol also conducts CSO and clinical trial support service through its subsidiaries.
Corporate Philosophy:    We seek to improve the "Quality Of Life" of all people, anytime and anywhere.
<Corporate History>
October 1992Masaru Nakamura (Current President) founded Qol at the age of 50 after working as a marketing division manager at a pharmaceutical product wholesale company, opening the first store in Nihonbashi-Kabutocho, Tokyo.
April 2006Listed its shares on the "Hercules" section (Currently the JASDAQ Market) of the Osaka Securities Exchange
December 2008  Formed collaborative agreement with LAWSON
June 2010First hybrid pharmacy and convenience store was opened (Shiroyama Trust Tower, Minato Ward, Tokyo)
December 2011  Listed shares on the Second Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange
August 2012Collaborative agreement formed with West Japan Railway Company Daily Service Net
August 2012Capital alliance formed with LAWSON
October 2012APO PLUS STATION turned into a subsidiary
December 2012  Listed shares on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange
April 2013Qol SD Holdings established as an intermediary holding company to oversee and manage the related businesses through a corporate split (Newly established split)
July 2014Collaborative agreement formed with Cocokara Fine OEC Inc.
<Business Overview, Pharmacy Business Characteristics>
Qol's reported business segments are divided into the two main segments of pharmacy business and BPO consignment business (name changed from related business), with pharmacy business accounting for 90.3% of total sales in fiscal year March 2015. While operations of dispensing pharmacies are the main service in the pharmacy business segment, Qol also derives some of its sales from merchandise sold through its hybrid pharmacy stores formed with convenience stores (Operated by "LAWSON").

At the same time, the intermediary holding company Qol SD Holdings oversees and manages the BPO consignment business segment which includes the CSO and pharmacist dispatch services conducted by APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. clinical trial support service performed by Qol RD Co., Ltd., and publishing related services provided by Medical Qol Co., Ltd. The dispatch of MRs is a response designed to reduce pharmaceutical company costs (Through reductions in having to hire full time MRs). At the same time, the dispatch of pharmacists is designed to help resolve the issue of chronic shortages of pharmacists resulting from the long period of education required to become pharmacists (6 years of university studies compared with the normal 4 years for other majors) and the decline in passage rates of the national examination to become a registered pharmacist.
Characteristic of the Pharmacy Business
QOL Pharmacies
Because of the strong stereotype of "purchasing prescription drugs at pharmacies near hospitals", customers generally sought to get their prescriptions filled at pharmacies near hospitals. Therefore, dispensing pharmacies had sought to open stores in front of or close to major hospitals. Despite this trend, Qol has established close "one-on-one" relationships with numerous medical institutions and medical doctors, and has effectively promoted a strategy of opening pharmacies that can capture demand from multiple medical institutions without necessarily being located adjacent to hospitals.
QOL phamacies boast of a new patient rate of 8% and double digit growth in sales on an existing store basis.

Based upon QOL's unique pharmacist certification system, pharmacists with high levels of knowledge in specialized realms of oncology, dementia, home care, diabetes and others have been cultivated. In addition, filling prescribed drug mistake prevention, fully automated pharmacies, speech privacy systems, ecology, natural disaster countermeasures, home care, video phone and other functions have been fortified.
Moreover, collaboration with companies outside of the pharmacy industry, QOL Cards, prescription mailing application, QOL pharmacy application and other information technologies are utilized as part of a strategy of reducing dependence upon major hospitals.
Collaboration with Partners Outside of the Industry - Wide Coverage of the Market -
Since 2010, collaborative partnerships with companies outside of the dispensing pharmacy industry have allowed Qol to develop multiple channels, including hybrid pharmacy stores formed with LAWSON convenience stores (From April 2014, a shift is being made from a combination of dispensing pharmacy and convenience stores, to a fusion between drug stores and health care), Bic Camera stores conveniently located in front of train stations with high customer foot traffic, and West Japan Railway Company Group for stores opened within train stations. Currently, over 20% of customers are said to choose dispensing pharmacies based upon functionality, and Qol seeks to increase the point of contact with customers as a means of differentiating themselves from competitors to acquire a greater number of orders to fill prescriptions. Qol is considering delivery services of not only pharmaceutical products, but also nursing care products and food as well in the future.
Distribution Reforms
In March 2014, a Pharmaceutical Product Sourcing Organization operated by 16 different drug store and pharmacy companies was established to enable pharmaceutical product wholesale companies to conduct competitive bidding on purchases by member pharmacy companies. This Pharmaceutical Product Sourcing Organization has divided pharmaceutical products into five categories, and the three categories of additional new drug discovery, patented products, and long term listed products within these five categories, and announces to member companies the anticipated pricing in addition to conducting general bidding for these products. As for other categories including off patent drugs and essential drugs (The minimum drugs required by national health insurance systems), negotiations for each product are conducted individually. Because Qol had conducted bulk purchases of pharmaceutical products until now, they have only been able to get limited discounts on their purchases. But from fiscal year March 2015, this bidding system conducted by the organization and subsequent appropriate and fair pricing have contributed to improvements in profitability.

The pharmaceutical product purchasing price negotiations conducted during the fourth quarter (January to March) have had a profound impact upon Qol's full year earnings. Compared with the strong influence of negotiated pricing upon earnings during fiscal years March 2013 and 2014, the introduction of the competitive bidding system to determine purchasing prices for pharmaceutical products allowed for relatively stable earnings during fiscal year March 2015.

In general, the price of prescription drugs becomes income of the dispensing pharmacy when they fill a prescription, with 25% and 75% of the price being booked as technical and pharmaceutical fees respectively. While the technical fee is considered to carry 100% gross margin, the pharmaceutical fee includes the cost of the pharmaceutical product with the difference between the pharmaceutical fee and pharmaceutical product cost being booked as gross income (The larger the discount rate contributes to excess earnings).
Prescription drug Sales = Average price of a prescription   x   Prescriptions Filled
Prescription drug Profit = Technical Fee + (Pharmaceutical Product price   x   Discount Rate)
First Half of Fiscal Year March 2016 Earnings Results
Sales, Operating Income Rose by 5.7%, 75.6% Year-On-Year
Sales rose by 5.7% year-on-year to ¥58.790 billion. While BPO consignment business sales declined by 16.5% year-on-year to ¥4.607 billion due to the focus upon profitability and implementation of a strategy of selection and concentration, sale of subsidiaries, liquidation of unprofitable businesses, favorable existing store sales and successful M&A activities allowed sales of the pharmacy business to rise by 8.1% year-on-year to ¥54.182 billion.

With regards to profits, gross income margin rose by 1.9% to 12.2% on the back of reductions of medical product sourcing costs, expansion in generic drugs, and reductions in immobile inventories. Absorption of increases in labor expenses and other sales, general, and administrative expenses allowed operating income to rise by 75.6% year-on-year to ¥2.724 billion. After amortization of goodwill of ¥762 million (¥52 million year-on-year increase) included in sales, general, and administrative expenses is considered, actual operating income is expected to have been ¥3.5 billion (Operating cash inflow of just under ¥4.0 billion). ¥317 million in reversal of retirement benefits for director reserves was recorded as extraordinary income, and a decline in effective tax rates allowed net income attributable to parent company shareholders to increase just under 2.8 times to ¥1.875 billion.
Pharmacy Business
Sales rose by 8.1% year-on-year to ¥54.182 billion. Sales of existing stores rose by 17.0% (¥2.679 billion) and successful M&A activities allowed its sales to rose by 7.8% (¥2.133 billion) year-on-year. At the same time, the contribution from the new drug for hepatitis C from Gilead Sciences Inc. allowed the average prescription pricing to increase by ¥417 to ¥9,981 (Prescription pricing of existing stores exceeded ¥10,000). Operating income rose by 63.0% year-on-year to ¥2.695 billion. Reductions of pharmaceutical product sourcing costs, promotion of generic drugs, control of labor costs, closure of unprofitable stores (Mainly Kiosks), increases in store productivity arising from the installation of an OCR system (Reductions in input time by 30% and nearly zero incidents), and other factors contributed a large improvement in profitability.

The number of stores operated at the end of the first half was 540 including, including 33 hybrid stores with Lawson. While 21 stores (14 M&A, 6 Qol, 1 hybrid store with Lawson) were opened, a total of 19 stores (12 were Kiosks) were closed. Of these 540 stores, 236 stores were home healthcare response capable and 21 stores were equipped with clean rooms.
BPO Consignment Business
Sales declined by 16.5% (¥910 million) year-on-year to ¥4.607 billion. While the pharmacist dispatch and clinical trial services trended favorably, the sale of Synergy Medical Communications, Inc., which provides advertising and promotion for pharmaceutical products, to Dentsu Inc. could not offset the ¥1.8 billion loss of revenues arising from the liquidation of unprofitable businesses of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. However, operating income rose by 27.2% year-on-year to ¥524 million due to the adoption of a selection and concentration strategy and strict management of costs in each business.
(3) Financial Conditions and Cash Flow (CF)
Total assets declined by ¥649 million from the end of the previous term end to ¥58.923 billion at the end of first half. Amortization of goodwill declined along with a drop in interest-bearing liabilities due to aggressive repayment of long-term loans. The net debt to equity ratio ((Interest-bearing liabilities minus cash and equivalents) / Capital) decreased from 0.54 times at the end of the previous term to 0.45 times at the end of the current first half.

With regards to cash flow, the increase in profits and successful collection of receivables allowed the net inflow of operating cash flow (A) to grow from ¥1.063 billion in the previous term to ¥3.969 billion in the current term. M&A pricing evaluations caused the margin of net outflow in investing cash flow (B) to decline, and contributed to a net inflow of ¥2.148 billion in free cash flow (A+B) compared with the net outflow of ¥2.362 billion in the previous term.
Fiscal Year March 2016 Earnings Estimates
Earnings Estimates Remain Unchanged, Sales, Operating Income Expected to Rise 10.0%, 18.1% Year-On-Year
The Qol Group expects to open 47 Qol pharmacies and 8 hybrid stores with LAWSON, for a net increase of 55 stores from the end of the previous fiscal year to 593 stores. With regards to the stores opened with Lawson, a scrap and build strategy will be pursued with a number of existing stores being converted to health care convenience stores, with a total of 40 expected to be operating by the end of the term. Stable earnings arising from the introduction of a bidding system for product purchases and aggressive switch to generic drugs are expected to contribute to improved profitability. While sales are expected to decline due to sale of a subsidiary and closure of unprofitable businesses of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. the BPO consignment business segment is expected to see a large increase in profits due to a large increase in earnings of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. and the recovery of Qol RD Co., Ltd. to profits. Capital investment, depreciation and amortization of good will are expected to be ¥1.627, ¥1.699, and ¥1.760 billion respectively (Compared with ¥1.752, ¥1.611, and ¥1.497 billion respectively in the previous term). A dividend of ¥10 is expected to be paid at the end of the term, for a full-year dividend of ¥20 per share when combined with the first half dividend payment (Dividend payout ratio of 27.5% Est.).
(2) ¥10.0 Billion Sourced through Issuance of Uncollateralized Convertible Bond with Options
The issuance of the first uncollateralized convertible bond with options (Options to purchase new shares) through third party placement managed by Nomura Securities Co., Ltd. allowed Qol to secure capital needed for its expected investments to be made over the next three years. This convertible bond with options has revision terms including a minimum exercise price of ¥1,799 and a maximum number of latent shares of 5,558,700 in order to prevent the share price from being negatively impacted by an abundance of latent dilutive shares. The Company expects to use funds raised through this issuance for its capital investments over the next three years, including opening of new Qol dispensing pharmacies and new format stores, refurbishment of existing stores, and repayment of loans. Moreover, the convertible bond with options also has a redemption condition that allows holders to redeem all of their bonds at anytime between the subscription date and September 28, 2018 through a special process.
New Dispensing Pharmacy Business Formats, BPO Consignment Business Trends
As medium term targets, Qol identifies sales of ¥300.0 billion (¥240.0 and ¥60.0billion derived from the pharmacy business and BPO consignment business) and operating income of ¥24.0 billion (¥12.0 billion derived from both businesses). Qol SD Holdings will endeavor to secure profitability of its BPO consignment business while at the same time growing revenues of its pharmacy business. Qol seeks to establish a nationwide pharmacy network of 1,000 stores in its pharmacy business through new pharmacy openings, M&A and collaboration for new store openings. At the same time, the Company will endeavor to grow the BPO consignment business on the back of the dispatching services provided by APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd.
<New Business Format Deployment in Pharmacy Business - Lawson, Bic Camera, West Japan Railway Company Group>
In the business jointly operated with Lawson, Inc. (Town Locations), the operation of convenience stores with a focus upon health care products has been extremely effective in attracting high levels of customer foot traffic and synergies between the two store formats are being realized. Also, in collaboration with Bic Camera (Near Train Stations), the presence of pharmacies capable of filling prescriptions from multiple medical institutions has been firmly established. At the same time, the positioning of pharmacies jointly operated with West Japan Railway Company Group as self-medication/pharmacies (Train Station Locations) has also been firmly established.

The number of stores jointly operated with LAWSON stood at 33 at the end of the first half, with trends at hybrid healthcare convenience stores that incorporate the function of dispensing pharmacies and convenience stores particularly strong. Hybrid healthcare convenience stores boast of average daily sales of between ¥700,000 to ¥800,000, and the store located close to Shin Yokohama Station boasts of sales over ¥1.0 million a day. During the first half of fiscal year March 2016, sales of the stores operated jointly with LAWSON rose 15.3% year-on-year. CVS sales, dispensing pharmacies and the number of prescriptions received rose by 15.9%, 12.0% and 0.7% respectively. While one new hybrid healthcare convenience store was opened, five unprofitable stores were close.
Qol has been able to firmly establish the position of pharmacies capable of filling prescriptions from multiple medical institutions through the four pharmacies operating in the four Bic Camera stores in Yurakucho, Shinjuku, Nagoya and Sapporo. During the first half of fiscal year March 2016, the number of drug prescriptions and dispensing fees rose by 22.0% and 27.1% year-on-year respectively. By store, drug prescription numbers and dispensing fees at the Yurakucho, Shinjuku, Nagoya and Sapporo stores rose by 11.8% and 15.5%, 26.1% and 34.5%, 24.9% and 19.2%, and 35.2 and 59.4% year-on-year respectively. The number of medical institutions issuing prescriptions that have been filled at the Yurakucho store has reached approximately 4,800, and the number of prescriptions being filled at the Shinjuku store continues to rise due to its favorable location in the basement close to subway stations. Over the counter drug sales at the Nagoya store remain steady, with sales rising 29.0% year-on-year during the first half. The relocation of the Sapporo store to the second floor has been effective and prescription numbers and dispensing fees are both growing strongly.

At the three drug stores within train stations that Qol operates with West Japan Railway Company Group at JR Osaka, JR Shin-Osaka, and JR Amagasaki Stations, efforts made to raise the brand awareness of these stores including campaigns to attract customer traffic to the dispensing pharmacy and drug store functions and the holding of health fares have been successful in growing the number of prescriptions filled at these stores (The number of institutions from which prescriptions have been filled is over 2,200). The number of prescriptions filled, dispensing fees and OTC drugs rose by 108.8%, 129.6% and 232.9% year-on-year respectively during the first half of fiscal year March 2016. At the same time, the first store opened in JR Osaka Station saw growth of 13.6%, 31.8% and 25.2% year-on-year respectively in number of prescriptions filled, dispensing fees and OTC drugs.
<BPO Consignment Business Trends and Outlook>
(1) Business Environment and Responses by Qol SD Holdings
While the five major Japanese pharmaceutical companies are reducing their dependency upon the Japanese market with between 40% to 70% of their sales now derived from overseas markets, the second tier pharmaceutical companies still maintain relatively high dependence upon the Japanese market with between 82% to 100% of their sales, and between 50% and 60% of sales of their long-term listed drug products derived from Japan. The number of long-term listed drug products is large, and their conversion into generic drugs is contributing to difficult operating conditions due to subsequent increases in new drug research and development expenses, and introduction costs. Consequently, the pharmaceutical companies are forced to rely upon BPO services for non-core tasks in order to focus upon the most important function of new drug research and development to remain competitive. As an example of BPO, "companies switching from in-house MR to use of CSO", "companies switching from in-house development to use of CRO", "phase four clinical trial consignment", "consignment of manufacturing" and other examples of this trends toward outsourcing various functions are becoming increasingly more common. APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. a subsidiary of the Qol SD Holdings Group, provides services that respond to this "switch from in-house MR to use of CSO" (Contact MR) and Qol RD Co., Ltd. provides services responding to the "switch from in-house development to use of CRO."

While the number of medical representatives within Japan has been on the decline after peaking in 2013 at 65,752, the number of contract medical representatives (CMR) is continuing to rise according to Qol data. Therefore, the share of CMRs is expected to reach 8% to 10% of MRs by 2017.
(2)Profitability Improvement of Qol SD Holdings through Strict Cost Management, Selection and Concentration Strategy
Sales of the Qol SD Holdings Group are expected to decline by ¥1.568 billion year-on-year in the full fiscal year to ¥9.753 billion. And while sales of Qol RD are expected to grow, the sale of Synergy Medical Communications Co., Ltd., the elimination of unprofitable businesses of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. and the negative influence of the shift from paper to electronic media upon Medical Qol Co., Ltd. are expected to contribute to the lower overall sales (This decline in sales appears to have bottomed). However, after the negative influence of the sale of a subsidiary in fiscal year March 2015 and elimination of unprofitable businesses is excluded, sales estimates would actually rise by ¥152 million or about 1% year-on-year to ¥9.601 billion in fiscal year March 2016.

At the same time, Qol SD Holdings operating income are expected to rise by ¥283 million year-on-year to ¥1.237 billion. While a loss of ¥99 million in profits from Synergy Medical Communications and loss of sales from Medical Qol is expected to negatively impact earnings of the Group, large increases in operating income of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. and the return to a profit of ¥55 million at the operating level of Qol RD from losses of ¥44 million in the previous term are also expected to contribute positively to the Group.
Issues for Consideration of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. the Key Company within the Qol SD Holdings Group
While a decline in sales is inevitable due to the elimination of unprofitable businesses of APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. during fiscal year March 2016, sales of the profitable businesses are expected to rise by about 5% or ¥401 million from ¥7.547 billion during fiscal year March 2015 to ¥7.948 billion in fiscal year March 2016. At the same time, operating income is expected to rise by over 41% year-on-year from ¥0.820 to ¥1.159 billion over the same period, allowing for growth in both sales and profits.
While conditions have improved considerably, the securing of CMRs is becoming an issue that needs to be resolved due to the industry wide trends for companies to directly hire MRs who have been dispatched, and the shortage of workers due to the tight labor markets. The number of CMRs at the end of the previous fiscal year stood at 510, but because 120 of these CMRs have been hired directly by the pharmaceutical companies to which they have been dispatched due to their reaching two years of consignment period the number of CMRs at the start of fiscal year March 2016 actually declined to 410. Consequently, another 80 new CMRs have been hired during the first half. At the same time, 530 CMRs will be needed at the start of fiscal year March 2017 in order to process the strong near term orders. Furthermore, the number of CMRs should be raised a step further to 600 by the end of fiscal year March 2017 given the current outlook for demand to remain strong. However, the tight labor markets and difficulties in hiring staff is quickly becoming an issue for the Company. Therefore, APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. is having to resort to hiring of personnel with experiences in other industries and training them to become MRs.
Amidst the current trend of double-digit growth in existing store sales, Qol has also been able to achieve success in its product sourcing bidding system to realize large growth in profits. Although the Company has maintained its outstanding full-year earnings estimates despite its stronger-than-expected first half earnings results, there is no particular concern for the second half of the term. On the contrary, there is a strong possibility for Qol's full-year earnings to exceed, at least, estimates by similar margins that the first half earnings exceeded estimates. As is common with the other companies in Japan, APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. has concerns about securing human resources and other issues, but the BPO consignment business as a whole, including the operation by APO PLUS STATION Co., Ltd. has been able to strengthen its profitability.

In addition, functions necessary for primary care pharmacies and pharmacists to deal with the impending revisions in the dispensing fees expected to take place in the coming fiscal year have been facilitated during the first half. At the same time, the Company also implemented logistics innovation to deal with immobile inventories arising from the increase in generic drugs (Fortified management of expired pharmaceutical products and effective use of medical products). In addition, during the second half, the Company has completed the sourcing of capital needed to fund investments for growth for the coming three years. Along with the favorable earnings recorded during the current term, Qol is implementing measures to secure growth in both sales and profit despite the impending difficult operating conditions expected to arise from the dispensing fee system revisions next year and increase in consumption tax anticipated in April 2017.
This report is intended solely for the purpose of providing information, and is not intended as a solicitation to invest in the shares of this company. The information and opinions contained within this report are based on data made publicly available by the Company, and comes from sources that we judge to be reliable. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data. This report is not a guarantee of the accuracy, completeness or validity of said information and or opinions, nor do we bear any responsibility for the same. All rights pertaining to this report belong to Investment Bridge Co., Ltd., which may change the contents thereof at any time without prior notice. All investment decisions are the responsibility of the individual and should be made only after proper consideration.
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