WebMD explores possible sale — could Walgreens be a buyer?

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WebMD explores possible sale — could Walgreens be a buyer?

By Michael Johnsen - 02/21/2017

NEW YORK — WebMD Health last week announced it will be considering the sale of all or part of the company as part of an exploration of potential strategic alternatives.

"WebMD's board of directors is committed to fully evaluating appropriate strategic alternatives while simultaneously supporting the company's management and employees in their ongoing efforts to deliver trusted information, innovative products and outstanding value to our users, members and customers," said Martin Wygod, chairman of WebMD.  "We believe that pursuing these complementary paths is in the best interests of our shareholders and is designed to maximize value."

Walgreens could be one of the suitors, suggested a Forbes opinion piece published in January.  According to Forbes contributor Bruce Japsen, a Chicago-based health reporter, a Walgreens and WebMD merger would make sense as it would couple the 2 million daily visits Walgreens generates online and the 117 million unique monthly visitors that WebMD captures.

Besides, Walgreens and WebMD are working on expanding the partnership they established in 2015 when they created "Your Digital Health Advisor." During a conference call last week, WebMD CEO Steve Zatz told analysts the company was working on expanding its relationship with Walgreens with a new offering called "Relief Advisor."

"WebMD will soon launch a new offering with Walgreens called 'Relief Advisor' that allows consumers to enter in symptoms and receive medical reviewed health information from WebMD including treatment advice, as well as the active ingredients they should look for when buying OTC products to treat their cold, cough and flu," Zatz said. "'Relief Advisor' will be available through both Walgreens and WebMD’s PC and mobile platforms."

Zatz noted that WebMD's enhanced symptom checker will feature a new responsive design optimized for use across multiple devices, which will also make entering symptoms and finding the best matching conditions quicker and easier. "We will also enable users to easily share a doctor’s report and locate a health professional based on their needs," he said.

With regard to the evaluation of strategic alternatives, J.P. Morgan Securities is acting as financial advisor to the company. Shearman & Sterling is acting as legal advisor.