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Should Amazon’s Latest Move Worry Teladoc Investors?

Online retailer Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) recently announced that it was going to acquire primary care company 1Life Healthcare (NASDAQ: ONEM), which is also known as One Medical, for $3.9 billion. It’s not Amazon’s first venture into healthcare, as it acquired online pharmacy PillPack in 2018 for $753 million, but it is certainly a much bigger move.

The tech giant also has a telehealth service that this recent acquisition could help it expand, and that could cause Teladoc Health (NYSE: TDOC) investors to worry — but should they?

Amazon would have a long way to go to catch up

Amazon certainly has the resources at its disposal to be aggressive and become a bigger player in the healthcare industry. Although the company recently posted its second straight quarterly loss, it still generated more than $35 billion in cash from its day-to-day operating activities over the past 12 months. And its cash and cash equivalents balance stood at over $37 billion as of the end of June 30.

But the problem is that its virtual health business, Amazon Care, only went nationwide earlier this year. There’s no mention of the business in its earnings report or how well it’s doing, which suggests that there aren’t notable numbers worth mentioning at this point. And while One Medical does offer digital health services, it also doesn’t specifically report on telehealth visits. 

Teladoc, meanwhile, recently reported that it projects that its number of virtual visits will be around 19 million this year, versus the 15.4 million it reported in 2021. The company has a huge head start in the industry and a proven track record; last year, J.D. Power conducted a telehealth study that ranked Teladoc first in customer satisfaction.

Thus far, I don’t see any reason to believe that Amazon is pursuing a rivalry with Teladoc. Earlier this year, the two companies even collaborated to make Teladoc’s services available on Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa.

Could Teladoc more likely end up being an acquisition target than a rival?

A scenario that I see as more probable than a rivalry at this point is a possible acquisition. Amazon has an online pharmacy, and through One Medical it will also have physical doctors’ offices. While it has its own telehealth service, that’s still in its infancy, I believe you could make an argument that it could benefit from owning a top telehealth company to round out its expanding healthcare business.

And a compelling reason for Amazon to potentially pursue Teladoc: It would be getting it at a discount. Disappointing quarterly numbers, including impairment charges in the billions, have resulted in an epic crash. The healthcare stock is down 75% from its 52-week high and has a market cap of less than $6 billion. Even if you were to add that along with the One Medical price and the PillPack purchase, that totals less than $11 billion in recent healthcare acquisitions if Amazon were to also buy Teladoc. By comparison, in 2017 it paid $13.4 billion for grocery chain Whole Foods.

Given its strong balance sheet and Teladoc’s prominence in the telehealth sector, it’s a move that could potentially make a lot of sense for Amazon. However, there haven’t been any signs that a deal will happen anytime soon.

There’s no reason for Teladoc investors to worry about Amazon

Amazon’s expansion into healthcare thus far doesn’t suggest it’s coming after Teladoc or telehealth in general. If anything, it suggests that it could be looking for broader diversification into the industry, avoiding a collision course with the telehealth company. 

That should be welcome news for Teladoc investors, as the company certainly doesn’t need any added competition in the sector as it still struggles with profitability.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. David Jagielski has positions in Teladoc Health. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon and Teladoc Health. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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