SRNE Stock – XpresSpa Shares Are Facing More Problems
As negative catalysts continue to mount for massage-parlor-operator-turned-coronavirus-tester XpresSpa (NASDAQ:XSPA), I reiterate my advice to stay far away from XSPA stock.
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I have several new concerns about the company. And a recent, spirited defense of the shares by another InvestorPlace columnist, Will Ashworth, failed to reduce my skepticism toward the company and its stock.
In my previous column, I expressed skepticism about the company’s ability to correctly administer Covid-19 tests. This is based on the company’s lack of experience in testing or any medical endeavor. I noted that XpresSpa was effectively competing with many sites that are conducting tests for Covid-19 for free. Also, I pointed out that it had gotten a slow start when it comes to testing.
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Now I have three new worries about XpresSpa to share.
XpresSpa Seems to Be Moving Slowly
First, after the company got off to a slow start, it doesn’t appear to be sprinting in an effort to catch up with competitors.
On June 29, XpresSpa announced that it had opened a “pilot… COVID-19 screening and testing” site at New York’s JFK International Airport. On July 6, XpresSpa said it was exploring “additional COVID-19 testing sites.” And it said it was “in active discussions with other U.S. airports regarding the potential roll out of” Covid-19 testing sites.
Finally, the company stated that it “is currently offering testing for airline employees, contractors and workers, airport concessionaires and their employees, TSA officers, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and intends to expand testing to travelers in the future.”
But XpresSpa has apparently not provided any additional information about other sites. About a month has gone by since the company’s July 6 statement. Yet XpresSpa has not indicated that it’s taken concrete steps to expand beyond its one pilot site.
A Vaccine Could Arrive Soon
Making XpresSpa’s slow pace even more alarming for the owners of XSPA stock, a vaccine for Covid-19 might be only two or three months away.
On July 20, Reuters reported that the “delivery” of the “first dose” of AstraZeneca’s (NYSE:(AZN)) thus-far successful vaccine is “expected between September and October.” And President Donald Trump recently said that the U.S. could have a vaccine “far in advance of the end of the year.”
Of course, once a successful vaccine gets widely distributed, the need for testing will drop exponentially. Vaccinated people will not worry about catching Covid-19.
Also rather discouraging is the apparent lack of updates from XpresSpa about the performance of the pilot testing site at JFK airport. The company indicated it hoped to sign contracts to test the employees of airlines and others. However, there is no additional word about any agreements.
XpresSpa’s silence for the last month could mean that the facility is not being utilized too frequently.
Other Areas to Watch
Finally, in recent days, Sorrento Therapeutics (NASDAQ:SRNE) grabbed much of the thunder of XSPA stock and Co-Diagnostics (NASDAQ:CODX), another popular Covid-19 testing stock.
Sorrento obtained the rights to a test from Columbia University. This test works by analyzing saliva, yields results in 30 minutes and does not require “laboratory equipment.” According to TipRanks, “the test is mobile and can be used in various settings…”
In theory, Sorrento’s test could eliminate the need for middlemen like XpresSpa to administer tests. Sorrento’s test sounds simple enough for employers to administer.
On the other hand, maybe some companies will still pay XpresSpa to administer Sorrento’s test. And the test may not be rolled out in time to make much of an impact on XpresSpa’s business.
But what’s undeniable is that Sorrento seems to be attracting investors who once flocked to Co-Diagnostics and XpresSpa. In early August, Sorrento soared 42%, while XpresSpa was down 4.5% and Co-Diagnostics had climbed just 6%.
Addressing a Defense of XSPA Stock
In his July 24 column, Ashworth wrote in InvestorPlace “why in [God’s] name would the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey let them anywhere near airport workers if the program XpresSpa and HyperPointe had put together was full of holes? They wouldn’t.”
First of all, the Port Authority, like XpresSpa, lacks meaningful experience managing health issues. Its primary responsibility is running bridge tolls and bus stations.
Secondly, a majority of the Port Authority’s board was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Many people are asking why in God’s name Cuomo’s health commissioner issued a disastrous and unecessary order requiring unprepared nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients.
Many people are also asking why the MTA, whose board is appointed by Cuomo, waited until May to start systematically cleaning the New York City subways. So I think Ashworth’s faith in the Port Authority is unwarranted.
Finally, Ashworth said he’s “not sure” where I got data showing that free Covid-19 tests were being offered around the U.S. My previous column includes links showing free tests were offered at hundreds of CVS stores around the country and at dozens of locations in Los Angeles County.
More recently, I found a federal website with links to all the locations providing free testing. The site links to thousands of sites providing free tests in every region of the country. Free tests are even available in our most remote state, Alaska.
The Bottom Line on XSPA Stock
Even as a vaccine, thankfully, could be only two or three months away, XpresSpa appears to be moving slowly when it comes to rolling out its airport testing centers. The company’s silence on the progress of its pilot testing facility is not a good sign.
Sorrento’s new test could make XpresSpa obsolete. And SRNE stock appears to be the new flavor of the month as far as Covid-19 testing stocks are concerned.
Taken together, all of these developments are quite negative for XSPA stock.
Larry Ramer has conducted research and written articles on U.S. stocks for 13 years. He has been employed by The Fly and Israel’s largest business newspaper, Globes. Larry began writing columns for InvestorPlace in 2015. Among his highly successful, contrarian picks have been GE, solar stocks, and Snap. You can reach him on StockTwits at @larryramer. As of this writing, Larry Ramer owned shares of Sorrento.
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