When health information portal WebMD Health Corp. (WBMD) reports earngins next month, the biggest thing on investors' minds is likely to be the status of the company's strategic review, which was announced Feb. 16, five months ago.
Since disclosing that it has hired J.P. Morgan Securities LLC as financial adviser and Shearman & Sterling LLP to give legal advice, New York City-based WebMD has been intentionally silent about the review—other than to say that the review continues.
"Our board of directors' review of potential strategic alternatives is still active and ongoing and no specific timetable for completion of this review process has been set," WebMD CEO Steven Zatz to analysts during the company's first quarter earnings call on April 29. "We do not intend to comment further on the process unless or until we determine that further disclosure is appropriate or necessary."
Zatz's restraint notwithstanding, some of his activist investors are very likely to keeping tabs on where things stand.
Blue Harbour Group LP began building a stake in the company shortly after the review was announced. Between Feb. 23 and March 3, the activist investors built a roughly 9% stake in WebMD's shares, according to securities filings. Jana Partners has a stake of just under 1% that it built between Feb. 28 and March 31, according to FactSet.
Blue Harbour Group's M.O. is to engage in a collaborate, behind-the-scenes activism and doesn't launch a proxy contest. In a filing on March 6 Blue Harbour said it has engaged and would continue to engage with WebMD about the company's business operations and strategy, and corporate governance.
Jana Partners often takes small initial stakes in companies it is considering launching activist campaigns at down the road.
WebMD has both public and subscription-only portals that serve both consumers and healthcare professionals.
Blue Harbour has said that WebMD's current valuation reflects on they worth of the company's Medscape portal for doctors and other healthcare experts and the company should find a way to incorporate the added value of the consumer-targeted WebMD portal too.
Blue Harbour officials declined to comment for this article.
WebMD traded at its five-year high on of $65.96 on May 20, 2016. Currently the shares are trading at $59.37 after rising Monday by 27 cents, or 0.46%.
During the April 29 earnings call, Cowen & Co. analyst Charles Rhyee ashed whether splitting Medscape and WebMD apart is one of the options being considered. He noted that Medscape contributes about 60% of the parent company's revenue.
In response to Rhyee's question, WebMD CFO Blake DeSimone would say only, "We're looking at all the alternatives."