must be licking its chops.
apparently crawling to an early grave, Healtheon could be the big winner. drkoop.com said this week it may run out of money this summer and, in a desperate cost-cutting move, it reworked and shortened a four-year portal agreement with
. Now, drkoop's pact to be the dominant health content site on AOL expires early next year.
So, who cares about the drkoop death watch? The question is who will get into bed with AOL if koop croaks?
"Healtheon definitely wants that. That is definitely an attractive opportunity for them," says
U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray
analyst Daren Marhula. Piper Jaffray hasn't done any underwriting for either Healtheon or drkoop.
AOL and Healtheon are both part of venture capital powerhouse
Kleiner, Perkins Caufield and Byers' Keiretsu
, the network of Kleiner, Perkins-backed companies that support one another in various ways. In addition to AOL and Healtheon's shared pedigree, Jeffrey Peters, an analyst with
Dain Rauscher Wessels
, notes that
has a relationship with AOL, and Healtheon is in the process of acquiring CareInsite. Dain Rauscher Wessels has no financial relationship with Healtheon or drkoop.
site is already a top health care Web site, but not
top health care site, according to April traffic information from
. In the most recent report, webmd.com and drkoop.com each attracted just more than 1 million unique users, well behind leader
, which had 4 million unique visitors to its site onhealth.com in the first week of April.
But, it's OK that OnHealth is No. 1. Acquisitive Healtheon is acquiring it. Will it buy drkoop? Don't count on it.
"I don't see Healtheon buying them. Healtheon doesn't need drkoop's traffic," Robert Rouse of
says. Lehman hasn't done any underwriting for Healtheon or drkoop. Piper Jaffray's Marhula doesn't foresee Healtheon buying drkoop either.
Nor does Rouse believe Healtheon will strike a deal with AOL. "Healtheon doesn't need additional agreements to drive Internet traffic to their site. I don't see AOL approaching anyone in this space given how that
drkoop deal went."
Then again, a deal to get more eyeballs through an AOL deal couldn't hurt Healtheon, whose shares are trading around 21, well off their 52-week high of 126 3/16.
In his April 26 report on drkoop, analyst Josh Fisher of
suggests drkoop will be acquired by another health care company or possibly AOL. Fisher wouldn't name any potential suitors in the health care sector, but he did say, "I've talked to a handful of companies that have interest in acquiring two things from them: their brand name and number of users." W.R. Hambrecht has no financial relationship with drkoop.
Rouse believes a sale is drkoop's best alternative, and he suggests a women-oriented site may be interested in buying drkoop. "Women are the head of the household when it comes to health," he observed.
Chase Hambrecht and Quist
analyst Stephen Fitzgibbons agrees that a sale is the most likely outcome. "I think the company will be sold," he says. He declined to speculate on who the buyer might be, but added that, "the most important thing right now is how much it's
Well, according to the market today, $2.75 a share at the close.