Strong performance for technology companies amid this year's unprecedented conditions stems from businesses in the sector being relatively insulated from coronavirus-related pressures that impacted many industries. Some tech companies have actually posted stellar performance on the year and seen their outlooks improve dramatically due to conditions created by the pandemic.
We put together a panel of three Motley Fool contributors and asked each to identify one of the tech sector's biggest coronavirus winners. Read on to see why they selected Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Fastly (NYSE:FSLY) as companies that have emerged through the pandemic looking stronger than ever.
Online retail's hottest stock
Keith Noonan (Shopify): Shopify has been one of the market's best-performing large-cap stocks this year, with shares up more than 160% in the year's trading so far. The Canada-based e-commerce software-services provider surpassed Royal Bank of Canada in May to become the country's most valuable company, and it now has a market capitalization of roughly $124.5 billion.
The e-commerce software company's business was already booming prior to the coronavirus and COVID-19, but temporary shutdowns for brick-and-mortar retail outlets and shifting consumer behavior kicked the company's growth into overdrive this year. Shopify's second-quarter revenue climbed 97% year over year, marking the company's best Q2 sales growth since going public in 2015. Gross merchandise volume soared 119% year over year in the quarter, and new stores created on Shopify's platform increased by 71%.
The company is playing a huge role in helping small-and-medium enterprises adapt to a world in which a strong digital presence is increasingly essential to success. Shopify has continued to bring new merchant partners on board its platform at a rapid clip, and it's been rolling out new features and service offerings to supplement its ecosystem and encourage heightened spending from its brand partners. An improved feature set also helps boost sales volume for stores on its platform, and the e-commerce services provider benefits by taking a cut.
With such incredible performance in recent years and the stock trading at about 46.5 times this year's expected sales, it's not unreasonable to wonder whether Shopify's valuation has become stretched. High expectations amid this year's volatile market conditions suggest that swings for the company's share price may be in the cards, but the business looks well positioned to benefit from and help facilitate the long-term growth of e-commerce. Online retail will only become increasingly important to the overall economy, and Shopify has established a leadership position in a category that's primed for surging demand.
The e-commerce juggernaut
Joe Tenebruso (Amazon): Has any company benefited more from the pandemic and its aftermath than Amazon.com? The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the growth of e-commerce around the world. Amazon, of course, dominates online retail in the U.S. and many international markets. Thus, the more people shop online, the more Amazon stands to profit.
Yet Amazon is far more than just an online retailer. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the 800-pound gorilla of the cloud computing infrastructure industry, and it's growing by leaps and bounds. AWS's expansion is being fueled in part by businesses adopting cloud-based services during the pandemic, which can make it easier to manage employees working from home, as well as globally distributed workforces.
Amazon's second-quarter results bear this out. Its net sales surged 40% year over year to a staggering $88.9 billion. Its operating and net income, meanwhile, soared 89% and 100%, respectively, to $5.8 billion and $5.2 billion. That's a stunning level of growth for a $1.7 trillion company.
Despite its massive size, Amazon has long runways for expansion still ahead. Even after years of torrid growth, e-commerce sales represent only about an estimated 16% of total worldwide retail sales. Investors can expect that figure to continue to rise steadily in the coming decade. Cloud computing, meanwhile, should only grow in importance as more companies digitize and migrate their operations to the internet. Amazon is perhaps the company best positioned to profit from both of these megatrends. Its stock, in turn, remains a great long-term investment.
Fastly surged immensely
Will Healy (Fastly): Fastly has become a stock made for the coronavirus pandemic. Although it had posted notable growth numbers before COVID-19, the contagion has given the company a massive boost.
Thanks to the growing work-from-home trend spawned by the pandemic, the popularity of Fastly's edge-computing platform has experienced phenomenal growth.
Investors took notice. The stock has pulled back from the highs of early August. Still, it has increased by more than 340% since the beginning of 2020 and more than eightfold from the March lows. Thanks to this surge, Fastly stock now trades at more than 40 times sales.
Moreover, the increased business helped to give the company its first profitable quarter. During that quarter, revenue surged 62% to $75 million. Non-generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) income came to about $2 million, or $0.02 per share, though the company also reported a GAAP loss of $0.14 per share.
Furthermore, the balance sheet has become much stronger over the last six months. Fastly's cash position grew to just above $257 million, up from about $16 million only six months prior. Additionally, stockholders' equity, the value left after subtracting liabilities from assets, has risen to just over $542 million, more than double the level at the end of 2019. This helps to make the long-term debt of just under $25 million easily manageable.
Still, the company may need this balance sheet strength to weather some possible challenges. ByteDance, the owner of the TikTok app, was Fastly's largest customer in the previous quarter. Since the Trump administration has considered a ban on TikTok, this leaves a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Fastly.
Nonetheless, the trends that drove Fastly stock to recent highs will probably not go away. As demand for edge computing continues to grow, Fastly investors should profit long term.