April 16, 2018 / 5:26 PM / 5 months ago

Drug suppliers' shares rise as looming Amazon threat appears to ease

(Reuters) - Shares of U.S. drug suppliers rose on Monday after a report that Amazon.com Inc had dropped plans to sell drugs to hospitals, in a boost to a pharmaceutical supply chain rattled by the looming threat of competition from the online retailer.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon.com Inc is seen in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

Stocks of drug distributors McKesson (MCK.N), AmerisourceBergen (ABC.N) and Cardinal Health (CAH.N) rose 2 to 3 percent, while drugstore chains Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O) and CVS Health (CVS.N) each advanced about 5 percent.

Healthcare investors expect Amazon (AMZN.O) will become a major force in the industry, fueled by recent media reports that the Seattle-based company was considering entering the pharmacy business.

CNBC, which reported Amazon’s plans on Monday, said the change comes partly because the e-commerce company had not been able to convince big hospitals to change their traditional purchasing process.

The company, through its Amazon Business unit, will instead focus on selling less sensitive medical supplies to hospitals and smaller clinics, CNBC said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Amazon told Reuters it does not comment on rumors or speculation.

“After months of hype and fear it appears now that Amazon’s entry into the drug distribution space has been indefinitely delayed,” said Evercore ISI analyst Ross Muken. Amazon is likely to remain focused on selling dental and medical products, he added.

The presence of established drug suppliers, along with difficulties in distributing highly regulated treatments, likely deterred the technology giant from entering the industry, analysts said.

“Even with Amazon’s large war-chest, it is still a difficult prospect given the dynamics of the whole pharmaceutical market,” Morningstar analyst Vishnu Lekhraj said.

In January, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) unveiled plans to form a company to cut healthcare costs for hundreds of thousands of employees.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar

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