The Information has a piece suggesting that there is a reason that Amazon has gone on what looks like an acquisition binge…
"We’re learning how Amazon plans to deal with Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan’s anti–tech acquisition policy - by striking so many deals that the FTC will have a hard time fighting them all.
"You could call it the whack-a-mole M&A strategy. That’s one interpretation of Sunday’s news that Amazon is a bidder for Signify Health, a health analytics company with a market capitalization of $6.6 billion. The bid follows Amazon’s deals to purchase the One Medical chain of primary care clinics and iRobot, maker of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, over the past few weeks.
"And those two acquisitions were in addition to Amazon’s $8.6 billion purchase of MGM earlier this year. There’s no certainty Amazon will succeed in its bid for Signify: It faces competition in the bidding from UnitedHealth and CVS, according to The Wall Street Journal. But if it wins, Amazon will have spent more than $20 billion on acquisitions this year, roughly 10 times its acquisition spending in each of the past three years. Amazon can easily afford that outlay - it had $60 billion in cash and marketable securities as of June 30. Moreover, Amazon is striking while asset prices are cheap, so you can’t fault its timing.
"But it is telling that CEO Andy Jassy has become so acquisitive at a moment when Khan has been getting more aggressive about blocking big tech deals … Presumably Jassy wants to signal that he won’t let the government get in the way of Amazon’s expansion strategy. And he apparently sees healthcare as a big new source of growth that will fit in alongside the company’s cloud computing, entertainment and original e-commerce businesses. While he might be right, you have to wonder whether he can manage so many disparate businesses within the one organization."
- KC's View:
The Information also makes the point that while all this tumult may slow the regulatory process, it may not be good for Amazon's investors. But on the other hand, Amazon has a tradition of not worrying about short-term investor concerns, so that's probably not top of mind in Seattle.
I kind of hope that Lina Khan decides to make an example of Amazon - I think there would be nothing wrong with putting the implications of Amazon's acquisitions - and, by extension, the acquisitions of other big tech companies - under a highly public, extremely transparent regulatory microscope. Let's have a nuanced public policy debate about what all this means not just to consumers, but citizens. And if that means challenging every one of Amazon's purchases, at least for purposes have having the conversation, let's do it.