Investing over the past year has been challenging. Underlying the early 2020 stock market collapse and its subsequent run-up to new all-time highs, there was a shift toward companies that facilitated a more remote, contact-free existence. Companies like Etsy, Peloton, and Zoom made life a bit easier during the hardships of the pandemic, and their stocks soared.
That reversed in February as vaccination rates began to rise significantly, with the pace of Americans getting inoculated each day approaching 2 million and climbing. In healthcare, stocks like telehealth leader Teladoc (NYSE:TDOC) and diagnostics player Quidel (NASDAQ:QDEL) gave back some of their COVID-driven gains. They’re now down 36% and 47%, respectively, from their peaks. That has given investors another chance to buy shares at discounted prices.
The case for Quidel
Over the course of 2020, Quidel received authorization for six different COVID-19 diagnostic products. That’s mostly why its revenue increased by 211% to $1.66 billion. Investors favored the stock as the pandemic pushed the company’s testing volume to record highs. But the exuberance quickly abated as they realized that 84% of the company’s $809 million fourth-quarter revenue was coronavirus-related. Its core revenue actually dropped by 15% year over year due to a less-intense-than-usual flu season.
Another issue that had investors selling the stock lower was management’s announcement that its Savanna analyzer would be further delayed. The device is designed to be a low-cost “sample-to-answer” system, well-adapted to the rising trend of decentralization in healthcare. It will fill the need for rapid diagnostics that can be performed closer to the site of patient care. Quidel believes the annual sales opportunity for Savanna is currently $1 billion, about a third more than for its already-available Sofia machine. The product’s launch has been repeatedly delayed over the years — CEO Doug Bryant actually joked on the fourth-quarter earnings call about the original schedule for 2015 delivery.
The company recently announced preliminary results for the current quarter, estimating sales of about $375 million, up 114% over last year. Unfortunately, it was once again stung by the lack of demand for influenza tests. Revenue from those is expected to be down by 94%. Bryant isn’t offering full-year guidance.
Despite the uncertainty, the company is well-positioned. If it can get Savanna released, the stock should perform well. Investors will have to take a long-term view, though, as growth may look paltry for the next couple of years. It will take a while for new product sales to make up for waning COVID-19 testing. Wall Street is likely to bid the stock up in anticipation of those sales long before the numbers turn around — as long as there are no surprises in the next few quarters.
The case for Teladoc
Teladoc was perfectly positioned to support the healthcare system during the pandemic. Given that daily new COVID-19 diagnoses are still high, and even climbing, in some parts of the country, you might be surprised to find this one on a list of discounted stocks. Although the stock is down significantly from its peak, it is still up by 118% from where it began 2020. It turns out a lot of growth was almost immediately priced into it as soon as the looming threat of the pandemic became clear. Shares are only up by about 12% compared to where they were this time last year — a month or so after the U.S. widely adopted social-distancing measures.
Still, last year was transformational for Teladoc. Revenue nearly doubled to $1.1 billion, and its $18 billion acquisition of Livongo widened its business into chronic disease management, an extension of its ability to provide care to patients in their homes. Despite the growth and the strategic move, Wall Street is nervous that the pandemic pulled a lot of the company’s future growth into 2020. By that logic, the next few years can be expected to be lackluster.
Some of Teladoc’s numbers support that narrative. While membership grew 41% last year, it is expected to rise only about 4% in 2021. Total visits are projected to rise only 18%. Management has admitted that it needs to refill the sales pipeline. But while those numbers aren’t exciting, the company’s prospects look bright over the long term.
Adding Livongo has dramatically increased the average price paid per member per month, and Teladoc’s pilot of a virtual primary care offering is identifying customers who would benefit from additional products and going even further to create a cheaper virtual step in the patient journey. The stock now trades at a price-to-sales ratio of 15 — the lowest that metric has been since before the pandemic.
Although the stock may lag this year as the business catches up with expectations, Teladoc is slowly creating cheaper remote alternatives to the inconvenient, inefficient legacy healthcare system. For investors willing to hold the stock for three to five years, the future has never looked brighter.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.
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