Zoom Video is seeing a surge in downloads amid coronavirus panic, analyst says

Shares of Zoom Video Communications Inc. have emerged as a surprise stock-market winner amid panic over the coronavirus outbreak, and one analyst says there’s some truth to the idea that more people are flocking to the company’s remote-work tools like videoconferencing as the virus continues to spread.

Zoom ZM, +0.49% appears to be seeing a real boost in downloads and engagement as workers start to exercise more caution, Bernstein analyst Zane Chrane wrote in a note to clients.

“In the last 30 days alone, average daily downloads are up 90% versus the prior 30-day period, with greater user engagement as evidenced by a 17% increase in user session per day and a 3% increase in average session length,” he wrote, based on his analysis of third-party data on app usage. The company has already added more new active users so far this year than it did throughout all of 2019, per his analysis.

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One question concerns what portion of the new Zoom user base is actually paying to use the service. Chrane expects that “a significant number” of these new users are using one of the company’s free options, including one-on-one meetings with an unlimited time frame or group meetings that last under 40 minutes.

Still, Zoom could benefit from converting some of these free users to paying accounts both in the near term and over the long run, as workplaces become more acquainted with the technology, he said.

“Zoom has added 3.5x more [monthly active users year to date] (through Feb. 24) than it did in 2019 (2.22 versus 0.64 million), so even if the conversion rate of new users to paid users is half of that seen in 2019, this would still yield 74% net new paid users in the first 8 weeks of 2020 versus 2019,” Chrane wrote.

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Though the coronavirus outbreak has not been as pronounced in the U.S. as it is in some other countries like China and Italy, an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Tuesday that further spread of the coronavirus could disrupt people’s lives in the U.S., potentially driving school and office closures.

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The stock rose even during market turmoil in the past two trading sessions, though it’s giving back some of those gains Wednesday. Zoom shares have climbed 56% on the year as the S&P 500 SPX, +1.29% has lost about 2%.

Wrote Chrane: “Who would have ever thought that a stock trading at [enterprise value/sales of greater than] 20x would ever be the go-to ‘safe haven’ during fears of an economic decline (even if true for only a few investors)?”

Zoom reports fourth-quarter earnings next Wednesday afternoon and management may speak to more recent momentum during the subsequent earnings call.

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