Stop Trying to Rejuvenate Clover Health Stock

Clover Health (NASDAQ:CLOV) stock burned bright for a brief period. Back in June, the shares rocketed from $7 up to $28 in a short period of time, thanks to a raging short squeeze. However, the huge rally came and went in the blink of an eye. Since then, CLOV stock has slumped back to $8.40 and is in danger of tumbling to new, all-time lows.

CLOV stock: stethoscope laying atop medical papers

Source: Shutterstock

There’s a simple reason for Clover’s fall: Its operating results aren’t very good, as its revenue growth came in at a pedestrian 21% last quarter. That’s not nearly as much as you’d expect for a company that is purported to be such a technological leader. Meanwhile, the company’s medical cost ratio (MCR) was a troubling 107%. This means that for every $100 of premiums that Clover received, it paid out $107 of benefits. Needless to say, that situation is not sustainable in the longer term for an insurance firm.

Given Clover’s slow growth, lousy operating results, terrible trading momentum and poor technical outlook, why are folks still holding onto CLOV stock? It’s partly because people want to invest alongside venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya. However, there are currently much better ways to do that than by owning CLOV stock.

Better Ways to Bet on Chamath Palihapitiya

For the investors who own Clover’s shares because of Chamath Palihapitiya’s involvement with them, there are superior options. Palihapitiya has been dubbed the King of SPACs (special purpose acquisition companies), since he has been responsible for issuing a number of them to the public. Some of his SPACs, like Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE), have been highly successful. Others have not, with Clover being the worst performer of the bunch.

Instead of buying into Palihapitiya’s worst deal, however, investors can choose different SPACs that he has on the way with better risk/reward profiles. Chamath’s Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. IV (NYSE:IPOD) is looking for a deal in the technology sector. It will presumably end up buying something more exciting than Clover. And IPOD stock closed yesterday at just $10.03.

SPACs allow investors to receive $10 per share of cash if they don’t like their merger target. So people can buy Palihapitiya’s next bet on the tech sector at a mere premium of 3 cents to the guaranteed cash value of the SPAC. As a result, Social Capital Hedosophia gives investors the potential of a home run deal with minimal risk.

That’s not the only one of Palihapitiya’s SPACs that are looking for a deal. There’s also Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. VI (NYSE:IPOF). The latter SPAC doesn’t have to make a deal in any particular sector.

It tried to buy a fitness chain, but that deal didn’t work out, so it’s back on the hunt for a new merger target. IPOF stock closed at just $9.88 yesterday. That means that it is bound to generate a positive return, as shareholders have the option of cashing out at $10 if they don’t like the eventual merger. And if the SPAC ends up finding a hot merger target, the shares could leap far higher.

The market has already voted negatively on Clover. At this point, there’s a dramatic opportunity cost to holding CLOV stock instead of reallocating funds into more promising SPACs.

The Valuation of CLOV Stock Is Much Too High

The market capitalization of Clover Health is currently above $3 billion. That’s pretty incredible for a firm whose revenue is growing modestly and coming in at an annual run rate of roughly $800 million. Meanwhile, it is generating large operating losses, and its core insurance underwriting business can’t even manage to keep its MCR ratio below 100%.

If Clover was growing quickly and had a fantastic outlook, perhaps the high valuation could be excused. However, Clover has run into numerous problems since going public, including a Department of Justice investigation and Clover’s CFO leaving the company.

Meanwhile, as it turns out, the actual health care insurance leaders are doing pretty well. Humana (NYSE:HUM), for example, has grown its earnings at a 25%/year compounded rate for the past five years. Even in the face of that remarkable earnings growth, Humana trades at just 22 times its earnings and a mere 0.7 times its revenues. Clover, by contrast, is going for four times its revenues and loses gobs of money.

The Verdict on CLOV Stock

The bottom line on Clover Health is a simple one: Its underlying business simply isn’t that great, and health care insurance is an unglamorous field  that doesn’t hold the same visceral appeal as a company like GameStop (NYSE:GME).

It’s easy to see why nostalgic investors gravitated to GME stock during its big short squeezes. Many people love shopping at GameStop and wanted to see the brand survive. But few people know much or care deeply about their health insurance provider. If Clover ultimately fails or is acquired by the likes of a Humana or UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) at a low price, it won’t make much difference to most people.

Beyond Clover’s  meme energy, there’s very little to like about CLOV stock now. And it seems that retail investors are buzzing about newer, hotter names than Clover, such as Robinhood Markets (NASDAQ:HOOD). Clover Health underwent a powerful short squeeze earlier this year, but that ended back in June, and it’s time for investors to move on.

On the date of publication, Ian Bezek did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the Publishing Guidelines.

Ian Bezek has written more than 1,000 articles for and Seeking Alpha. He also worked as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek.

Ian Bezek has written more than 1,000 articles for and Seeking Alpha. He also worked as a Junior Analyst for Kerrisdale Capital, a $300 million New York City-based hedge fund. You can reach him on Twitter at @irbezek.

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