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🩺 Teladoc’s ailment, explained
May 3, 2022
PLUS: Fertilizer economics and the future of virtual events.
Walter Orthmann isn’t hearing any of this “Great Resignation” talk. The centenarian started working at a Brazilian textile company at age 15. Now, over 84 years later, he’s earned the Guinness World Record for longest tenure at the same company. In his words, “When we do what we like, we don’t see the time go by.” Well put, Walter.
In today’s email:
Teladoc: Why the once high-flying stock is on life support.
Chart: What the heck’s happening with fertilizer?
Virtual events: With happy hour back IRL, is their future at risk?
Around the web: The creepiest McDonald’s, Google Drive tips, a delighted puppy, and more cool internet finds.
🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Jacob and Rob dish on Wikipedia halting crypto donations, Uber’s looming earnings call, closing time for virtual happy hours, and more.
The big idea
Why Teladoc’s stock is on life support
Teladoc Health, a leader in telemedicine, probably wishes it could phone in the rest of 2022. Its stock tanked 40% last week, now down 80%+ from 2021.
One reason is that many patients are returning to physical waiting rooms, but another is a “goodwill impairment charge.”
First of all, what’s goodwill?
A business’s value includes not just its physical stuff, but also its intangible assets — brand recognition, customer loyalty, talent, etc. So, when one company buys another, it often pays more than that company’s book value (AKA what it’s worth on paper).
That difference is called goodwill. It appears in a buyer’s books as an intangible asset, meaning it can increase the buyer’s valuation.
But goodwill can change, and companies must conduct an annual goodwill impairment test — essentially, an audit to determine its current value.
So, what’s up with Teladoc?
In 2020, Teladoc bought Livongo, a platform for managing chronic conditions, as an opportunity to expand its offerings amid a boom in virtual care. The deal was valued at $18.5B, netting Teladoc $12.9B in goodwill.
Except it didn’t go well:
More competitors flooded the virtual care space
Teladoc struggled to integrate and several Livongo leaders left
People are returning to IRL appointments, which is bad for virtual health care (the valuations of some platforms like AmWell and 1Life Healthcare fell 80%+ in the past year)
The result? Teladoc took a $6.6B impairment charge, rattling investors while its shares dropped. Now, that charge is higher than Teladoc’s market cap.
But hey, it could have been worse. In 2002, AOL took a nearly $99B goodwill impairment on Time Warner, reducing its market value from $226B to ~$20B.
Priced out: Of the 100 largest US housing markets, 95% are less affordable than their long-term levels. For context, at the beginning of the pandemic, that number was 6%. The high levels are due to a combination of rising prices and mortgage rates.
No more BTC: The Wikimedia Foundation, parent of Wikipedia, stopped accepting cryptocurrency donations after facing pushback from its community for Bitcoin’s environmental impact.
Digital bricks: Lego announced plans to 3x the number of software engineers working at the company in a push to expand its digital operations. The company has long held back on digital, fearing it could have a negative impact on its physical toys.
Who’s got spirit? Spirit Airlines rejected a $3.6B takeover bid from JetBlue, opting to stick with its plan to merge with Frontier. While JetBlue’s offer valued Spirit higher than Frontier, Spirit’s board said the decision was due to increased closing risk, fearing regulators would bar the deal.
Wellness warrior: After fighting his own battle with mental and physical health, one founder set out to create a resilience training program that helps workers combat stress and burnout.
Sausage war: Vegadelphia Foods is suing Dunkin’ and Beyond Meats, claiming their “Plant-Based, Great Taste” vegan sausage slogan is too close to its trademarked slogan “Where Great Taste is Plant-Based.” #ecommerce-retail
A new report highlights water power successes, including an Alaskan village that runs on clean energy derived from river currents. #clean-energy
Cool: These soft robotic wearables look strange, but could be used as gloves to help people with disabilities move and grab objects. #emerging-tech
Report: Mental health and prayer apps are among the worst when it comes to user privacy protections. Mozilla Privacy Not Included guide lead Jen Caltrider described some apps as “exceptionally creepy” due to the intimacy of the data captured. #privacy
Concerto, a startup that streamlines the creation of co-branded credit cards, raised $21.2m. It’s currently working on several partnerships, including one between Mastercard and MLB teams. #fintech-crypto
Japanese game publisher Square Enixsold 3 of its Western game studios and the rights to 50+ games to European publisher Embracer. The sale includes the “Tomb Raider” franchise. #big-tech
What the heck is happening with fertilizer?
Unless you’re a farmer, the state of global fertilizer markets might not mean much. But it’s one of the world’s most urgent crises, and you’ll probably feel it.
What’s going on?
Globally, farmers rely on fertilizer. Unfortunately, per Bloomberg, the world is experiencing a major shortage as a result of:
Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions
China stockpiling key ingredients
The Russia-Ukraine war impeding ~⅕ of global nutrient exports
So, with less fertilizer to go around and prices taking off, farmers are trimming their use of it. Here’s why that’s bad:
In Brazil, a 20% reduction in potash use could decrease soybean yields by 14%
In Costa Rica, if farmers apply just ⅓ less fertilizer, coffee yields could drop 15%
In West Africa, reduced use is expected to cut rice and corn yields by ⅓
Global food prices went up 13% in March, and you can expect them to rise further if the fertilizer supply doesn’t improve.
One industry banking off the fertilizer shortage is good, old-fashioned manure. Some sellers are sold out till 2023, and prices in Nebraska have nearly doubled.
Virtual vs. IRL
What’s the fate of virtual events now that we’re back IRL?
During the pandemic, Hopin, a virtual events platform, became the fastest growing European startup of all time.
After reaching unicorn status in 2020, the company more than tripled its valuation to $7.75B in August 2021.
But now that IRL events are back, the fate of Hopin, and virtual events at large, is at risk, per Financial Times.
… has dealt with a number of challenges in 2022, including:
Layoffs: the company let go of 12% of its staff (totaling 138 workers) in February
Falling stock: Hopin’s share price fell 41% in Q1 on Zanbato (a trading market for private companies)
As a result, Hopin has pivoted to marketing itself as an all-events platform, capitalizing on the demand for hybrid gatherings with both in-person and virtual components.
With happy hour back in person…
… it makes sense that the appetite for online events is shrinking. Case in point: In November 2020, Hopin’s platform featured 15k+ events — it now shows fewer than 500.
Despite the drop in demand, virtual events will likely have a role going forward, especially virtual work events and conferences, which:
Are cheaper, more inclusive, and more environmentally friendly than in-person meetings.
Align with the trend toward remote work, which has led workers to expect both remote and in-person options.
🎨 On this day: In 1808, Napoleon’s troops executed Spanish rebels after a failed uprising on May 2. In 1814, the Spanish government commissioned Francisco de Goya to paint the uprising, but his disturbingly honest “The Third of May 1808” lives on as an iconic anti-war painting.
💡 How to: In celebration of its 10th birthday, Google Drive is offering up some helpful tips.
😱 Huh: There was apparently once a McDonald’s on a now-abandoned barge. McCreepy.
🌙 Cure boredom: An interactive story about 2 kingdoms, the Moon and the Sun, brought to you by artist Nicolas Buffe and… a French patisserie?
🐶 Aww: And now, a puppy enchanted with a door stopper.
Meme of the day
We really are living in “The Jetsons”… (Source: Twitter)
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