Walgreens Feels Uneasy, But Maintains Expansion Targets

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The crowd at the Navy Pier ballroom, typically a docile bunch happy to get some free cake and a gift bag, had some uncharacteristically tough questions for Chairman and Chief Executive Jeffrey Rein, starting with demands to know how the company plans to revive its depressed stock price, which has fallen to $33.75, its lowest point in more than two years.

Rein, who took over the CEO post last year, is well aware of the toll the misstep has taken on Walgreens' reputation. He began the meeting conceding that this past year has been a "very trying time for Walgreens' shareholders" and several times attempted to assure the audience that the company is "back on track."

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As for growth, Walgreens is sticking to its plan to add 550 stores this year and more than 600 stores in 2009, Rein said. But the company is no longer wedded to its long-standing strategy of eschewing acquisitions in favor of organic growth, he added.

"We're trying to be more flexible and adaptable," said Rein during a news conference after the annual meeting. "In my mind there are no sacred cows."

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