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What’s wrong with Teladoc Health?

Pandemic-friendly stock Teladoc Health (Teladoc Health Quotes, Charts, News Analysts, Financials NYSE:TDOC) hasn’t looked so … healthy lately, with the stock now down about 44 per cent for the year. On the surface, the stock’s fate could be chalked up to the market pulling back on an over-extended name and sector, as health tech stocks have mostly had a rough go of it this year. But dig a little deeper and you may find a performance issue, says portfolio manager Kim Bolton, who muses whether Teladoc’s failure to deliver is the real issue.

“Teladoc is a great story. This is the world’s largest platform when it comes to online health care. It first went public back in 2015. We’ve been involved in it but I don’t own it anymore. It’s down 50 per cent from its February all-time high,” said Bolton, president of Black Swan Dexteritas, who spoke on BNN Bloomberg on Thursday.

“I’m not quite sure whether it’s mismanaged because the intellectual property is very, very solid. We’ve had it within some of our separately managed accounts, but it just has not performed and we had a stop on it and we got out of the way,” he said. “It’s down about half from back in February of this year. I’d get out of the way.”

Dallas-headquartered Teladoc is a teleheath services and analytics platform company that’s been around for almost two decades but it became much more well known after making a couple of splashy buys in 2020, first with enterprise telehealth solutions business InTouch Health, a provider for hospitals and dozens of health systems across the US, and then the $18.5-billion merger with chronic conditions-focused company Livongo. Those deals crowned Teladoc the undisputed king of telemedicine in the United States with now a revenue run rate of over $2 billion a year and over 15 million patient visits per year. 

Even with COVID restrictions scaling back this year, Teladoc has still been growing, as evidenced by its latest quarterly results, the company’s third quarter 2021 delivered a few weeks ago, which saw revenue grow by 81 per cent from Q3 2020 to $522 million with 3.9 million patient visits, also up 37 per cent from last year’s third quarter. (All figures in US dollars.)

“Our strong performance in the third quarter reflects our continued success in leading the transformation of healthcare delivery and expanding access for all,” said Jason Gorevic, CEO, in an October 27 press release. “By leveraging our unique combination of data, analytics, technology and dedicated healthcare professionals, we are driving growth across our business.”

TDOC’s share price rose temporarily after the release of the Q3 numbers but the stock has slid dramatically in recent weeks, falling from $150 per share at the start of November to now around $110. 

Parsing the quarterly news is difficult, as the company’s Q3 revenue came in higher than the consensus expectation and on the bottom, Teladoc’s third quarter net loss of $84.3 million (compared to a loss of $35.9 million a year ago) was also a bit better than expected. As well, management’s guidance for full 2021 revenue actually tightened to the positive, going from between a forecasted $2,000 million and $2,025 million at the end of the previous quarter to now between $2,015 million and $2,025 million. The company’s net loss was also predicted to be smaller than previously assumed.

“As we look ahead to the rest of 2021 and into 2022, we are confident in our ability to innovate, anticipate and solve for the evolving whole-person health needs of consumers and healthcare professionals globally,” Gorevic said.

The pullback has been sector-wide, however, with telehealth and digital health companies all under pressure this year. In the Canadian market, health tech companies across the board are in the red: WELL Health Technologies (WELL Health Technologies Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials TSX:WELL) is down 27 per cent, CloudMD (Cloudmd Software & Services Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:DOC) is down 47 per cent, Think Research (Think Research Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:THNK) is down 68 per cent and Carebook (Carebook Stock Quote, Charts, News, Analysts, Financials TSXV:CRBK) is down 70 per cent.

But for Bolton and looking past the broader picture, Teladoc’s poor showing this year could be more about execution or the lack thereof.

“It’s very much a mystery because they are a leader in this sector,” Bolton said. “They have the intellectual properties and they have had a tremendous amount of spend when it comes to the sales and marketing side which has impacted both the top and bottom line.”

“But for companies, it all comes down to execution. And I think that is where the problem lies in the execution of the business model over at Teladoc has just not proven to be favourable,” he said.

Disclosure: Nick Waddell and Jayson MacLean own shares in WELL Health Technologies and WELL Health is an annual sponsor of Cantech Letter.

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About The Author /

Jayson is a writer, researcher and educator with a PhD in political philosophy from the University of Ottawa. His interests range from bioethics and innovations in the health sciences to governance, social justice and the history of ideas.
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