Shares of Teladoc Health (TDOC 6.47%), a leading provider of telehealth services, jumped 13.1% in October, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. A third-quarter earnings beat and a guidance raise near the end of the month gave this healthcare stock most of the lift.
Teledoc Health shares added to gains made in September by outperforming Wall Street's and its own expectations on the top and bottom lines. Third-quarter revenue grew 24% year over year to an annualized $551.9 million. The company is still losing money, but $0.28 per share was less severe than investors were expecting.
If you ignore $17.4 million in stock-based compensation, adjusted EBITDA reached $9 million in the third quarter.
Shares of Teledoc Health would have risen much higher if it weren't showing early signs of a pricing war for telehealth services. During the first nine months of 2019, total visits rose 63% year over year, but total revenue grew just 34%.
Around 38% of Teledoc shares available for trading are sold short at the moment. Rewarding employees with what looks like excessive compensation, when the company's competitive advantages appear to be evaporating, is a big reason.
Teledoc Health raised the low end of expected revenue this year by about 1.5% to $546 million. The company also raised expectations for total visits by around 5.4% to 3.7 million.
It's still early days for the telehealth industry, and there's still lots of room to grow. Unfortunately for Teledoc, the number of telehealth service providers could continue rising faster than demand for the service itself. Investors want to keep an eye open for signs that economies of scale can push down costs while Teledoc persuades end payers that its services are significantly more valuable than the competition.