Home >Opinion >Views >Zoom won big again. Why aren't investors impressed?

Zoom Video Communications Inc. has had a monster year in almost every way. The video-conferencing upstart got a huge boost in the spring amid Covid-induced lockdowns, and it’s still a must-have for many as the resurgent pandemic reinforces stay-at-home habits and remote-work trends. Sales and profit have consistently beat estimates every quarter, and the company keeps raising its guidance.

The latest numbers continued the trend. Zoom late Monday reported fiscal third-quarter financial results that beat the Wall Street consensus, including a more than fourfold rise in sales from a year earlier, and it raised forecasts again. But Zoom shares fell about 5% in after-hours trading following the earnings release, a different reaction than in prior quarters.

It’s understandable. The stock is already up an astounding 600% this year, including 47% alone since its prior earnings release. The higher Zoom’s valuation rises, the more that’s needed for even diehard bulls to add to their positions. And the positive developments on Covid-19 vaccines give less of a reason to bet on Zoom benefiting from a longer outbreak. All that said, Zoom’s long-term prospects remain strong and may prove durable beyond the pandemic. 

Zoom, the leader in its field, has become synonymous with video-conferencing the way Kleenex is another word for tissue, and the company continues to win market share for its ease of use and reliability. Last week, social media was filled with grateful Zoom Thanksgiving posts, many expressing gratitude toward the company for lifting its 40-minute meeting limit during the holiday. It is likely people will continue to use Zoom to stay in touch with friends and family even when the Covid-19 crisis subsides.

In terms of business clientele, the work-from-home trend could be a lasting structural shift. Last week, PayPal Holdings Inc. CEO Dan Schulman told Bloomberg Television the pandemic has spawned changes that could permanently favor remote work. The executive expects the “vast majority" of his workforce to work from home at least a couple of days a week. It also may take longer than expected for the vaccines to roll out. Schulman said it could be late summer 2021 or early fall before PayPal asks its employees to return to physical offices.

Schulman isn’t alone among business leaders predicting such changes. Earlier this month at the New York Times DealBook conference, Bill Gates said he expects that more than 50% of business travel and more than 30% of days in the office will “go away." I agree with that sentiment. Business behavior and its norms are vastly different from pre-Covid-19 era. In most instances, a video conference call will now suffice for the in-person sales meetings that were often required pre-pandemic. This new standard bodes well for Zoom.

It’s been a heck of a year for Zoom. Its stock isn’t cheap, trading at nearly 45 times next year’s estimated 12-month sales after its big rally this year. But the technology market is typically a winner-take-all or winner-take-most proposition for category leaders such as Zoom. If the company can continue to dominate its space for years to come, Zoom can grow into its valuation. As of now, there are no signs it will give up its No. 1 position anytime soon.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tae Kim is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Barron's, following an earlier career as an equity analyst.

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