Athenahealth (ATHN) shares soared on Thursday, May 18, after Elliott Management's Paul Singer launched a campaign at the healthcare technology company urging it to consider "strategic opportunities."
For Elliott Management, which is run by billionaire Paul Singer, strategic opportunities usually mean find a buyer and sell the business. According to an activist filing, Elliott Management reported owning a 9.2% stake.
An Athenahealth representative said in an e-mail that the company is aware of Elliot's filing and looks forward to "talking with them to hear their views about the company and discuss the actions we are taking to drive enhanced growth and value creation for all athenahealth shareholders."
"We have great confidence in the company and where we are headed," the representative said.
In the filing, Elliott said it believed that Athenahealth operates in a "highly strategic area at the intersection of technology and health care with a disruptive value proposition, a leading competitive position and a compelling product set, the value of which is not reflected in the Issuer's current market value."
The activist fund added that it believes "that there are numerous operational and strategic opportunities to maximize shareholder value" and that the fund will be seeking to talk to the company's board.
An Elliott representative declined to comment beyond the filing.
Athenahealth shares closed at $130.07 on Thursday, up 22.4%. The company has a market capitalization of $5.02 billion.
If Elliott seeks to nominate directors to drive change at Athenahealth's 2018 annual meeting, it would have to submit its nominees between Feb. 7 and March 9.
Watertown, Mass.-based Athenahealth is a provider of medical record, revenue cycle, patient engagement, care coordination and population health services.
The 13D filing does not come as a total surprise, according to a stock analyst. "While the timing of today's announcement will likely have surprised many, it is not altogether shocking that a relatively underperforming, though strategically well-placed asset would attract activist attention," wrote Evercore ISI analyst Ross Muken, who has an outperform rating on the stock and has raised his price target to $147.
"We believe they see what we see, a great platform and product suite that is likely set to be a long-term winner but has struggled with value creation," Muken wrote. He thinks there are two obvious paths to create value, one of which is working with Athenahealth officials to improve the operating structure and enhance free cash flow creation. The other, he said, is exploring a strategic event such as a leveraged buyout or strategic sale to a technology or healthcare service firm.
Athenahealth is not the only firm in the healthcare technology realm that was targeted by Elliott. The activist investor launched a campaign in January at healthcare technology and consulting company Advisory Board Co. (ABCO) . In March, Advisory Board settled with Elliott. As part of the deal, Elliott agreed not to launch a director-election proxy fight for period of time and the Advisory Board signed a non-disclosure agreement.
-Armie Margaret Lee contributed to this report.
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