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Is This Stock Your Best Hedge Against Your Pet's Veterinary Bills?

By Motley Fool Staff – Sep 22, 2016 at 9:42AM

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Acquisitions are turning VCA Inc. into a pet hospital Goliath, and rising spending on pet health suggests this company's future could brighten.

Americans spent nearly $16 billion on veterinary bills last year. As spending on pet healthcare only continues to climb, VCA Inc. (WOOF) could be positioned perfectly. The company's 682 pet hospitals are generating over $2 billion in annual sales and ongoing acquisitions are turning VCA into a veterinary Goliath. Could owning VCA help take some of the sting out of your next visit to the vet?

In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare podcastanalyst Kristine Harjes and contributor Todd Campbell sit down to discuss if VCA deserves a spot in your portfolio.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Aug. 31, 2016.

Kristine Harjes: Another part of this pet health market would be your veterinary operators. The name to know here is VCA -- ticker, appropriately enough, WOOF. They, like I said, are a veterinary clinic operator. They have 682 animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, which is the vast majority of their revenue, about 79%. They also operate a vet diagnostic lab, which is 16% of the revenue. What do you think about them, Todd?

Todd Campbell: This is an interesting story. You're able to invest in the vets...maybe it's a hedge against your own pet spending. If you have to bring in your dog or pet for care, maybe it feels a little less painful when you're at the checkout counter, knowing that you have some shares in the veterinary clinic.

Harjes: Yeah, some part of this bill will go into your pocket.

Campbell: Right. Let's do an over/under one more time. Do you think there are more or less than 30,000 pet hospitals in the United States?

Harjes: 30,000 pet hospitals...I think that sounds really high. I'm going to go less.

Campbell: It is less: 26,000. But that just goes to show how much opportunity for growth could exist for WOOF. If you think about it, they have only less than 700 hospitals, yet there are 26,000 out there. A lot of the growth, historically, for this company has come from acquiring existing hospitals and rolling them in, and using the best practices they've learned over time to make them more profitable.

Harjes: Right. This is something they've been doing consistently. They just acquired a company called CAPNA in the second quarter. That was another 56 hospitals, and I'd say it looks like they're going to continue to expand their network, too.

Campbell: Yeah, they added about $200 million in annual revenue via acquisitions in the first half of the year. That represented a lot of the top-line growth. If you're just looking at numbers, you're going to say, "Wow, sales were up that much?" You have to remember that some of that came from acquisitions.

That being said, you're still getting solid mid-single-digit same-store sales growth at the existing hospitals that have been around at least one year. This is a growing market. It's probably not a barn-burner market, but it's definitely one that's intriguing, that investors might want to consider.

Kristine Harjes has no position in any stocks mentioned. Todd Campbell has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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