Udayavni Special

Zoom booms as pandemic drives millions to its video service


PTI, Jun 3, 2020, 9:45 AM IST

San Roman: Zoom Video Communications is rapidly emerging as the latest internet gold mine as millions of people flock to its conferencing service to see colleagues, friends, and family while tethered to their homes during the pandemic.

Tuesday’s release of the once-obscure company’s financial results for the February-April period provided a window into the astronomical growth that has turned it into a Wall Street star.

Zoom’s revenue for its fiscal first-quarter more than doubled from the same time last year to $328 million, resulting in a profit of $27 million up from just $198,000 a year ago.

The numbers exceeded analysts’ already heightened expectations, providing another lift to a rocketing stock that has more than tripled in price so far this year while the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 indexes have fallen 5%.

After a big run-up leading up to Tuesday’s highly anticipated announcement, Zoom’s stock initially rose even higher in extended trading. But it abruptly reversed course and fell more than 3% after company executives acknowledged during a video discussion that some of its newfound users might depart during the second half of the year if health worries caused by the novel coronavirus dissipate.

Even if the shares trade in a similar fashion during Wednesday’s regular session, the stock will still be hovering around $200 more than five times the company’s initial public offering price of $36 less than 14 months ago.

The surge left Zoom with a market value of about $59 billion through Tuesday — greater than the combined market values of the four largest U.S. airlines, which have seen their businesses hammered by the coronavirus outbreak that has dramatically curtailed travel.

“Videoconferencing is going to become a mainstream service,” predicted Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, who co-founded the company nine years ago. He made the remarks during the video conference that at one point attracted more than 3,000 participants, a reflection of the intense interest in the company and its hot stock.

In a sign that the company still expects phenomenal growth in the months ahead, Zoom forecast revenue of roughly $500 million for its current quarter ending in July, more than quadrupling from the same time last year. For its full fiscal year, Zoom now expects revenue of about $1.8 billion, nearly tripling in a year.

Zoom’s boom has come despite privacy and security problems that enabled outsiders to make uninvited, and sometimes crude appearances during other people’s video conferences.

The concerns prompted some schools to stop using Zoom for online classes that have become widespread since February, although the company’s efforts to introduce more security protection has brought some back to the service. More than 100,000 schools worldwide are now using Zoom for online classes, according to the company.

Overall, Zoom now has more than 300 million daily participants attending a meeting held on its service, up from 10 million five months ago. Those numbers include people who join multiple Zoom meetings during the same day, something that has been happening more recently in recent months.

If it hopes to continue to expand, Zoom also will likely have to do a better job of protecting the privacy of its video conferences. To help achieve that goal, Yuan has been consulting since April with Alex Stamos, a highly respected online security expert who previously worked at Yahoo and Facebook. Both those companies encountered their only security and privacy problems, too.

Zoom’s success is also drawing stiffer competition from much larger companies, including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook.

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