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3 No-Brainer Coronavirus Bear Market Buys

By Sean Williams – Apr 16, 2020 at 5:06AM

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COVID-19 is fueling existing trends that'll make these businesses considerably stronger.

There's absolutely no question that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has completely changed our societal habits. With more than 1.8 million confirmed cases worldwide, as of April 12 -- 30% of which have originated in the United States -- stringent mitigation measures have been necessary to help curtail transmission. These measures have included everything from mandated stay-at-home orders issued by state governors in the U.S., to the shutdown of nonessential businesses in most states.

There's also little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a sizable physical and financial toll in the United States. Aside from being responsible for more than 20,000 U.S. deaths to date, it's also cost almost 17 million Americans their jobs over a three-week stretch and sent equities to their fastest bear market in history.

Once this is all over, the way we work and engage is certain to be different than it was, say, two months ago.

While these expected changes will likely take some getting used to for most Americans, they're actually great news for three companies. That's because the coronavirus has simply kicked an already growing work-at-home trend among developed countries into high gear. You could say it makes the follow three stocks no-brainer coronavirus bear market buys.

Doctors consulting with a physician on a virtual platform.

Image source: Getty Images.

Teladoc Health

If there's one company that absolutely stands out amid the coronavirus pandemic, it's telemedicine specialist Teladoc Health (TDOC -3.35%). Teladoc provides virtual healthcare visits for subscribers, as well as people without insurance for a fee.

The logic here is simple to understand. In order to stem the spread of COVID-19, it's imperative that persons exhibiting mild-to-moderate symptoms stay home. A virtual medical visit frees physicians up to make a diagnosis or determination without the patient leaving their home and risking the spread of their illness to others. Telemedicine can also help to fill gaps for non-COVID-19 illnesses, such as influenza, that may require a diagnosis but not necessarily an in-person office visit.

Telemedicine was a trend that was already gaining steam well before the coronavirus. Generally speaking, telemedicine is considerably cheaper for insurers and patients than a doctor's office visit, it's far more convenient for the patient and physician, and it allows for easier collaboration among healthcare professionals during and (if needed) after treatment. 

Teladoc Health has already witnessed a considerable jump in the number of patients using its platform due to COVID-19, and my suspicion is these higher usage figures will continue to translate well after the pandemic is over. With Global Market Insights calling for 19% annual sales growth in telemedicine between 2018 and 2025, Teladoc Health looks well-positioned to thrive. 

A gloved hacker in a dark room typing on a keyboard.

Image source: Getty Images.

Palo Alto Networks

Another no-brainer coronavirus bear market buy is cybersecurity company Palo Alto Networks (PANW -1.08%).

To begin with, cybersecurity isn't something that enterprises twiddle their thumbs and consider. No matter the size of the business or how well or poorly the economy is performing, cybersecurity is mandatory. In fact, it's becoming increasingly important as employees work from home and access enterprise data from the cloud. If working from home is a trend that's here to stay, the role of cybersecurity companies like Palo Alto just received a big boost.

Similar to Teladoc, the beauty of Palo Alto's business model is that it's primarily built on subscriptions. Although the company does sell cybersecurity products (e.g., firewall protection solutions), the bulk of the company's margins are derived from its enterprise subscriptions and support. These subscriptions also happen to make up $1.11 billion of the $1.59 billion in revenue recognized through the first six months of fiscal 2020. Because subscription revenue is highly predictable, Palo Alto has generally good visibility on its annual cash flow. 

Palo Alto's management team also isn't afraid to sacrifice very-near-term operating results in order to gobble up additional cloud protection market share. Even before COVID-19 became a global economic disruptor, Palo Alto was planning to make big investments in its cloud protection offerings.

In my view, this is a company that can maintain a sustainable double-digit growth rate throughout the decade.

A cloud in the middle of a data center that's connected to multiple wireless devices.

Image source: Getty Images.


There's also a very good likelihood that e-commerce kingpin Amazon (AMZN -1.57%) is going to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever.

It's no secret that consumers being stuck at home for the past couple of weeks have been turning to delivery like never before. Amazon has more than 150 million Prime members worldwide who currently enjoy a variety of perks ranging from faster delivery options to unlimited video streaming and limited music streaming options -- all of which are perfect given that people aren't leaving their homes much. It also doesn't hurt that these Prime membership fees keep consumers loyal to Amazon's brand and its ecosystem of products. 

As noted, working from home also means a growing reliance on enterprise clouds. That's great news considering that cloud service Amazon Web Services (AWS) is hands-down the company's fastest-growing and highest-margin operating segment. AWS only accounted for 12.5% of Amazon's total sales in 2019, but was responsible for 63% of the company's $14.5 billion in operating income. As AWS grows into a larger component of total sales, Amazon's cash flow will soar. This is a big reason Wall Street is forecasting a near-tripling in cash flow per share for Amazon between 2019 and 2023. 

The point is our societal habits may have permanently shifted because of the coronavirus, and companies like Amazon, Palo Alto, and Teladoc Health look poised to benefit.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Sean Williams owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Palo Alto Networks, and Teladoc Health and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned, Inc. Stock Quote, Inc.
$113.00 (-1.57%) $-1.80
Palo Alto Networks, Inc. Stock Quote
Palo Alto Networks, Inc.
$163.79 (-1.08%) $-1.79
Teladoc Health, Inc. Stock Quote
Teladoc Health, Inc.
$25.35 (-3.35%) $0.88

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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