Amazon.com’s (AMZN) pursuit of being the retailer of choice for as many product lines as possible has reached into the prescription drug industry with its purchase of online pharmacy PillPack Inc. (Private Company) for an estimated $1 billion. This follows CEO Jeff Bezos’ recent alliance with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/AB) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) to form a joint venture to address the complexity and high cost of worker health benefits. Stocks in the soon to be disrupted Drug Retail and Healthcare Distribution Sectors felt the pain immediately with the average stock price in the two sectors down 5.6% at the close. AMZN’s stock price is up 2.5% on the news, generating a $20 billion increase in its market cap on the impending $1 billion PillPack purchase.
The acquisition of PillPack will allow Amazon to get a foothold in the online and mail order pharmacy sector in all 50 states and compete directly with established competitors such as CVS Corp (CVS), Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA), Rita Aid Corp (RAD), McKesson Corp (MCK) and Cardinal Health (CAH), which had the largest percentage losses for the day.
We should continue to see short selling in the Drug Retail and Healthcare Distribution Sectors as Amazon’s footprint in the sector continues to expand. We saw increased short activity today as momentum short sellers jumped onto the coattails of the existing fundamental/value shorts, specifically in CVS Corp and Rite Aid Corp. There were also some buy-to-covers in Walgreen Boots Alliance stock as short sellers that added $585 million to WBA’s short interest over the last month took some profits. In addition to the increased short selling in outright equities we are also seeing short selling in CVS corporate bonds.
With short sellers in the sector now outperforming both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, they are more likely to hold onto their positions and ride the Amazon disruption wave as far as it can take them.
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Managing Director Predictive Analytics, S3 Partners, LLC
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