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Teladoc stock plunges as the stay-at-home economy fizzles

<i>Adobe Stock</i><br/>More people are willing to leave home for doctor visits
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More people are willing to leave home for doctor visits

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business

The huge pandemic boom for virtual health company Teladoc appears to be over.

More people are willing to leave home for doctor visits, and shares of Teladoc plunged more than 45% Thursday. The company warned of a weak sales outlook and higher costs in its earnings report after the closing bell Wednesday.

Teladoc, along with companies like Zoom, Roku and Chewy were major beneficiaries of the shelter-in-place economy during the height of Covid-19 fears in 2020 and the early part of last year. But all of these stocks have now plunged from record high levels.

Teladoc’s stock is down more than 67% this year — and 90% from its peak price in February 2021.

Increased competition is also a factor. Amazon has launched its own telehealth service and other Teladoc rivals are spending heavily on marketing to attract customers. That could be cutting into growth for Teladoc, but CEO Jason Gorevic told analysts that the platform is not going to engage in an ad spending war.

“We continue to take a disciplined approach,” Gorevic said when asked about marketing. “So we are not going to overspend our way through that and follow the lead of irrational competition.”

Gorevic noted that increased competition for telehealth services “has created noise in the marketplace” and that “in the near term we expect this noise to persist.” But he maintained that Teladoc can be the “long-term winner” in virtual health.

But it may take time for Teladoc to get back on track.

Gorevic conceded that as many American workers have begun to return to offices, corporate human resources departments “are getting squeezed … dealing with the Great Resignation and all of the hiring and allocating resources to talent acquisition and retention,” he said.

As a result, Gorevic said many companies are choosing to focus on existing health insurance plans for workers rather than expanding telehealth options from independent providers like Teladoc.

Wall Street is worried too. At least fifteen analysts slashed their price targets on Teladoc Wednesday and Thursday following the earnings report, according to data from Refinitiv.

One of those analysts, Citi’s Daniel Grosslight, wrote in a report Thursday that “increased competitive intensity is weighing on growth and margins” adding that “we are doubtful that we will see the competition-driven headwinds abate anytime soon.”

Teladoc’s plunge is also bad news for superstar investor Cathie Wood. The Ark Invest founder’s flagship fund is a major holder of Teladoc, Zoom and Roku as well as other hard hit momentum stocks such as Tesla, Coinbase and Square owner Block.

The Ark Innovation ETF fell 4% Thursday and has lost more than half its value this year.

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