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3 Reasons to Buy Teladoc, and 1 Reason To Sell

By Alex Carchidi - Jun 8, 2021 at 7:39AM

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Things are different for the business in 2021 as lock-downs disappear and people venture out.

Telehealth provider Teladoc Health (TDOC 6.13%) was a literal lifesaver for many people during the height of the pandemic in the U.S. Rather than risking their lives to go to a medical appointment, millions of people simply sought a virtual visit with one of the company's in-house doctors.

Now, the service's convenience remains a key feature which few competitors can match. But, the economic and social conditions that made the company an overnight success have changed quite a bit, so it's worth looking at it with fresh eyes. If you're interested in buying Teladoc stock, it's possible there's still money to be made -- let's look at three reasons why, and then tie it up with one argument in favor of selling.

A doctor smiles as they talk on the phone while looking at a laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Its valuation isn't as extended as it was in 2020

At the end of June 2020, Teladoc's trailing price to sales (PS) ratio stood at 22.8. That seemed a bit overvalued at the time, given the healthcare information and technology industry's average stood at a mere 6.78. The furor over the stock is understandable, as an appointment with Teladoc was one of the few safe ways to access medical care during the intense early days of the pandemic, and the service was growing its membership base by millions. 

Now that people can go to in-person medical appointments again, the stock's PS is a little above 12, which is far more reasonable. So, investors who buy the stock now won't need to worry as much about steep corrections like it experienced early this year.

^SPX Chart
Data by YCharts.

2. International markets are still largely untouched

Because its service lives on the internet, it's easy to forget that Teladoc is an American company that has primarily served people from the U.S. so far. Whereas U.S. consumers attended more than 1.61 million virtual visits in the first quarter of 2020 and 2.73 million virtual visits in the first quarter of 2021, there were only 467,000 international visits. That's not a large increase compared to the 432,000 international visits in Q1 of 2020. 

So, even if it saturates the U.S market, Teladoc can still grow by quite a bit if it chooses to chase its international markets. This should please potential investors, as it reduces the risk of rising competition from other telehealth services backed by domestic insurance companies. It's also conceivable that its customer onboarding costs will be lower in developed markets outside the U.S., as there will typically be fewer bothersome middlemen. In short, having a source of growth on tap is a great reason to consider buying the stock.

3. It'll likely make more money this year than it expected

It's always good news when a company updates its earnings guidance because things are going better than predicted.

And that's exactly what Teladoc did in its most recent earnings report. Whereas management had projected total 2021 revenue to reach up to $2 billion, it now expects to make as much as $2.02 billion. An increase of $20 million at the optimistic end may not sound like much for a company with trailing revenue of $1.37 billion, but it's still a nice surprise for shareholders. 

Peak onboarding rates could be in the rearview mirror

There is one reason Teladoc shareholders may want to exit their position, however. Now that the pandemic has started to abate in the U.S., there isn't any powerful catalyst driving new growth of paid memberships. In fact, paid memberships haven't grown much at all since the initial burst that was registered in the second quarter of 2020. 

At the time, Teladoc had more than 50 million paid members. Now, it has over 51.5 million, and it also lost the 1.5 million temporary paid members provisioned by emergency coverage schemes in the height of the pandemic in the U.S. While the number of visits are still increasing, it's important to note that membership access fees totaled $388 million in Q1, whereas visit fees brought in only $54 million.

If Teladoc's membership base doesn't keep growing somehow, it won't be able to maintain its wild growth rates from last year. Once the market realizes the party's winding down, it's possible the stock will collapse again, and that's a compelling reason to sell.

Alex Carchidi has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Teladoc Health. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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