About three weeks ago, I mused about a "hockey-stick moment" of exponential growth in Internet-based telephony. That magic hour would unleash similarly exponential growth in the share price of business-class VoIP specialist 8x8 (Nasdaq: EGHT ) .
Last night, 8x8 reported third-quarter results. This morning, share prices jumped as much as 30%. Has the magic moment already arrived?
At a glance, that's not the obvious takeaway. 8x8 did exceed analyst estimates on both the top and bottom lines with sales of $23.3 million boiling down to $0.04 of earnings per share. But keep in mind that 8x8 tucked in a small acquisition right at the end of last quarter, then take a step back. When you put those numbers into the context of recent quarters, you'll see that it's more an evolution than a revolution at this point:
Moreover, today's drastic jump simply erased three months of swooning share prices. 8x8 isn't setting all-time highs here.
Having thrown ice water on the hopes for an immediate rocket launch, let's look at what made the quarter tick -- and why I still feel compelled to start a bullish CAPScall on 8x8 today.
In the last quarterly report, 8x8 said it was looking for larger contracts. The acquisition of Contactual helped bring some big-name agreements into the fold, and deal sizes are growing overall. That trend should continue, helped in large part by a brand new distribution partnership with telecom giant AT&T (NYSE: T ) . If you're using Ma Bell's new Call International mobile VoIP app for smartphones, 8x8 actually operates that product.
So we're still waiting for the dams to bust wide open. Consider the fact that fellow VoIP experts Vonage (NYSE: VG ) , magicJack VocalTec (Nasdaq: CALL ) , and Cbeyond (Nasdaq: CBEY ) hardly moved on the news, and it's clear that the technology still has a ways to go before becoming truly mainstream. That gap leaves a large investing opportunity on the table.
I'm bullish on all four of the VoIP gurus, for somewhat different reasons. 8x8 is solidly profitable, and its business-class services are gaining traction beyond the itty-bitty biz segment. Cbeyond has the corporate focus down and is just waiting to turn the corner into profitability, making for an attractively priced stock. magicJack and Vonage cater to the consumer at different balances between price and convenience, and it's only a matter of time before a smartphone-infused America catches on to their advantages.
That's why I'm starting a thumbs-up CAPScall on 8x8 right now. In an industry marked by severe share price swings, I realize that I'm jumping in at a less than optimal time, but we Fools don't play the market timing game, and the long-term opportunity in 8x8 is undeniable. Did you realize that this company hooks right into both cloud computing and the smartphone explosion for a killer one-two punch?