“Is deal making ready to rebound?”–KPMG tries to find the bright side in their new study of healthcare activity. If Q2 reflects the trend, it won’t be this year. See below for what this Editor sees that KPMG doesn’t.
- There were 245 deals in Q2 2023, 7% below deal volume in Q2 2022 and 41% below the bull market of Q2 2021.
- Buyers shifted from the financial buyer (e.g. a long-term investor), now at 29% of deals, to strategic buyers who look to expand or augment their businesses at 71%. This is a complete flip from the prior year, where strategic buyers were 37% (98) of a total of 264 transactions.
- Sectors have also shifted: 42% of deals included physician groups, 27% were IT/digital health sector, 16% were in post-acute care, and 15% involved health systems. The shift away from digital health is pronounced from the palmy pandemic days of 2021 where 737 deals raised $29.1 billion.
There aren’t many big deals on the board in Q2, mostly announced and not closed: CVS Health-Oak Street (closed), Optum-Amedisys, TPG and AmerisourceBergen-OneOncology, Molina-BrightHealthcare’s CA plans, Froedert Health-ThedaCare, and Kaiser Healthcare-Geisinger (forming Risant Health). The last is still to be structured.
KPMG’s reason why for the paucity of deals were the Fed and the continuance of interest rate hikes to supposedly slow inflation (which hasn’t worked much and instead is depressing the economy), the US political situation (turmoil), and what they politely term “uncertainty about the valuations of potential acquisition targets.” Healthcare Dive, Becker’s
“Uncertainty about the valuations of potential acquisition targets” is an understatement. This Editor looks back at that time of 2020 to perhaps Q1 2022 as a binge of insane proportions and self-reinforcing FOMO. Rivers of free-flowing money for any company in digital health–who can blame founders and funders for grabbing their buckets and filling them? The hangover? Equally insane. Of SPACs alone, which were treated like the future of IPOs, nearly all cracked. Valuations of established telehealth companies plunged 70-90%. The money? The river bed is largely dry except for a few puddles and branches. The call for profitability is late.
Racking up reasons why from this Editor’s POV that aren’t in the KPMG analysis:
- Investors such as VCs and providers no longer have the money because 1) they spent it and 2) can’t raise it. Those who have ‘dry powder’ are either reserving it for a brighter day, cutting back themselves, or deploying it to what they perceived as safer bets such as fintech and biopharma. The deals being made especially in digital health are small. Private equity, family offices, and high net worth investors are mostly staying out of healthcare, or being extraordinarily cautious about both where they invest and how much. More on this: TTA 5 April.
- A four-bank collapse–Silicon Valley Bank’s failure most notably was a dagger in the heart of West Coast VCs. Add to it First Republic, Silvergate, and Signature in NYC (a favorite of Silicon Alley), plus Credit Suisse being taken over by UBS, all in fairly short order in late winter, ant that will tend to curb anyone’s enthusiasm. It also affected companies that located their cash, investments, and payables/receivables in these banks.
- High valuations seem to have an inverse relationship to survival. This past year has seen the total ‘hull loss’ of the following former ‘industry darling’ companies: Pear Therapeutics, SimpleHealth, The Pill Club, Hurdle, Quil Health [TTA 11 July], and now Babylon Health. Teetering on the edge are Bright Health Group and possibly 23andMe. Insurtechs Clover and Oscar are cleaning up frantically, trying to recover. Established companies such as Teladoc and Amwell have taken it in the shins and talk a lot about profitability after years almost proudly not being profitable. Onetime ‘too hot for their shirts’ telemental health is still trying to survive the scandals around Cerebral and Truepill. What remains isn’t favorable: too many companies chasing the same younger group of people who want virtual mental health, plus DEA confusion around Schedule II medication telehealth prescribing [TTA 14 June].
- Big acquirers CVS Health (Oak Street Health, Signify Health) and Walgreens Boots Alliance (VillageMD) are posting down numbers, retrenching, selling units, closing stores, and laying off staff in a matter of months to a year post-acquisition.
And to wrap…there are six letters may sink any revival of M&A: DOJ (Department of Justice) and FTC (Federal Trade Commission), with a commission relishing their activist role.
- Draft Merger Guidelines that update corporate merger guidelines originally from 1968 but updated many times since. The 13 Guidelines drafted by DOJ Antitrust and the FTC have the intent to prevent mergers that threaten competition or create monopolies. But reading them, nearly every merger or acquisition other than in a horizontal or conglomerate model will be in violation of one of the 13. [TTA 20 July]
- Earlier, the Premerger Notification changes to the filing process covered under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (HSR) Act for transactions over $111.4 million. Again, it raises the height of the mountain and the time required for all transactions other than the smallest. [TTA 29 June]
- FTC reviving the 2009 Health Breach Notification Rule to clamp down on ad trackers, fining Teladoc’s BetterHelp and GoodRx millions, and sending letters to 130 hospitals and health systems to put them on notice that they are on the radar [TTA 27 July].
This Editor is shocked that this concatenation of Federal actions have not gained the attention they deserve, especially the first–or maybe the legal departments are just working verrry verrry qwietly to register their objections.
Perhaps there will be a bounce in M&A–companies moving to acquire under the wire of both the merger guidelines and the premerger notification changes–akin to what Wall Street calls a ‘dead cat bounce’ (apologies to felines). After they’re in effect, watch for another dead stop in M&A and investor exits until everyone adjusts to the new rules and figures out new workarounds. No one wants to be the first out of the gate in this situation.
(Edited for clarifications)