Stock Market

Clover Health: Praying to the Great Google

Clover Health (NASDAQ:CLOV) is in deep trouble. CLOV stock was due to open March 10 at about $3 per share. That is a market cap of just under $1.3 billion, which on 2021 revenue of $1.5 million looks horrendous. On expected 2022 revenue of $3.24 billion, however, maybe that is not so bad.

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Investors hope Clover signed up enough Medicare Advantage customers, thanks to its Clover Health app, to stay afloat. A loss of just 29 cents per share is expected for the first quarter. This works out to about $110 million. At the end of 2021, the company had about $300 million in cash.

It is going to be a close-run thing, given the present economic environment. Investors must wonder if it has an ace up its sleeve.

Maybe it does.

Google Connections

Clover recently hired Conrad Wai as its chief technology officer. Wai has a computer science background and two degrees from Stanford. He also has experience in venture capital and worked as a product manager for Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG) Google.

He will report to president Andrew Toy, who developed the Clover Assistant around which the company is built. The program runs on tablets and brings telehealth services to seniors. I’ve written positively about Toy’s vision, which is to manage chronic conditions that represent most of America’s health care bill.

Before launching Clover Health, Toy worked at Google. Before that, he had a start-up called Divide, which helped people split their online work lives from their online personal lives. He sold that to Google.

Google has been trying to get into health care off and on for over a decade. I remember covering an industry show back in 2009 where they pushed electronic health records. They made grand predictions they were going to be a dominant vendor during the Obama Administration. They want in, but they keep stumbling over privacy.

Most recently, they dissolved Google Health and its visionary leader, David Feinberg, became chief executive officer of Cerner (NASDAQ:CERN), the health care software company. Cerner was promptly sold to Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL).

Where Clover Fits

The latest Google Health vision is built around artificial intelligence and hospital partners like the Mayo Clinic and around FitBit, the fitness watch company it bought some years ago. Karen DeSalvo, the new chief health officer, likes to ask if potential acquisitions can be “Google scale.”

Clover Health can be Google scale. The company apparently drew over 80,000 customers for 2022, beating larger rivals like Cigna (NYSE:CI) and Humana (NYSE:HUM). The Clover Assistant acts as a front-end to its customers’ Medicare services and the cash lets Clover offer enhanced services. The problem is that Clover lacks the scale to turn a profit.

Toy does have his fans. I am one, although I own no shares. Chelsea Clinton is another. She does own shares. Clover stock still has institutional investors, as InvestorPlace’s Eddie Pan recently detailed.

Of course, there is another face to Clover Health, one I wrote about in January. That is its background as a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) sponsored by Chamath Palihapitiya, now facing a lawsuit for misleading investors about Clover. Apparently, he may have used borrowed money to fund his position in Clover, while claiming to have “skin in the game.”

The Bottom Line on CLOV Stock

I have no inside knowledge of Alphabet interest in Clover Health.

But it would be reasonable for them to be interested. The company is run by ex-Googlers and the software could scale under Google’s guidance to offer Medicare Advantage plans across the nation. Medicare Advantage enrolled 26.4 million people last year, creating a $343 billion market.

I think that is a Google scale opportunity.

Even if a deal is done, however, I doubt you’ll get anything like the $22 per share investors were paying for Clover last June. This is about survival. But it is worth looking into.

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On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held a long position in GOOGL. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.