Amazon gets all tangled up on their $3.9B One Medical buy as FTC widens antitrust scrutiny

Amazon’s ride towards being the #1 threat to healthcare hits an oncoming train. A report in stock analysis newsletter Seeking Alpha, picked up from other sources (the subscription Dealreporter), states that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hired outside economists to scrutinize Amazon’s $3.9 billion purchase of provider network One Medical (1 Life Healthcare). In a little-noticed action in early December, FTC also sent out subpoenas to current and former One Medical current and former customers as part of its investigation.

Both the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg (paywalled) are reporting that this appears to be part of a larger FTC action in developing a wide-ranging antitrust lawsuit against Amazon on multiple anticompetitive business practices. In a recent example, FTC held up Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot (Roomba) during the summer, and in September, requested information from 1 Life and Amazon above and beyond the usual required Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR) reports reviewed by the FTC and DOJ [TTA 15 Sept 2022]. This examination has been going on for some years, across two administrations, but may come to fruition as early as this spring. The main investigation is around Amazon favoring its own products, how it treats outside sellers on its platform, and copycatting the products of outside sellers. It may also cover Amazon Prime bundling practices. Prime also plays into its healthcare strategy. FierceHealthcare

Another factor: the highly profitable growth of Amazon Web Services (AWS) has taken a nosedive along with the cloud market, killing Amazon’s growth and value, according to Seeking Alpha’s analysis (may be paywalled). Amazon is also closing or pausing already built-out food stores–Fresh supermarkets and Go convenience shops–ending a long-term commitment to developing them.

When all of these factors are combined with Amazon’s 18,000 layoffs and huge 2022 net loss of $2.7 billion, it’s hard to believe that Amazon now has enough blue sky fisc to make the huge investment and long-term commitment that a largely new and cash-intensive business, delivering healthcare through real live providers in offices, will require. Amazon’s current health business is either transactional virtual retail (Pharmacy and the new non-face-to-face Amazon Clinic for virtual medical referrals) or hardware+subscription (Halo)–areas that Amazon knows well. But managing an entirely new and complex area that provides expensive and regulated provider services?

This Editor will go out on a wintry limb and predict that Amazon, facing FTC and state anticompetitive actions plus plenty of shareholder profit pressure , will cancel the deal with One Medical–leaving One Medical on another limb.

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