WeWork (WE -5.46%) led global headlines when it achieved it's long-awaited public debut via SPAC on Oct. 21. But if you're interested in investing in the future of work, there may be better uses of your investment capital. In the following segment of Backstage Pass, recorded on Oct. 22, Fool.com contributors Jason Hall, Toby Bordelon, and Rachel Warren discuss three such stocks, as well as a few other names investors know well.
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Jason Hall: Alright, well, we spent a lot of time talking about a business that we don't even like. Let's do a little transition here. We think about what WeWork is. There is this interesting idea, particularly work-from-home, the hybrid movement, all that sort of thing.
More people wanting to do gig work. That having this office space that you can lease, it's outside of your own property, is an interesting opportunity. I think it could be a good business if it's structured well. But I don't think this is the right one.
Guys, thinking broadly again, not just about real estate but thinking about the present and the future of how people will work. What's a better investment? Rachel, I'm going to ask you to go first. We give Toby's dulcet tones a little break.
Rachel Warren: [laughs] Sounds like a plan. Yeah, well, I thought about this and the first company that came to mind for me was Zoom (ZM -0.88%). Obviously this is a company that received so much attention during those early days of the pandemic with everyone going from being out and about to working at home, studying at home, socializing at home.
But I think it's a company that can and does provide still a lot of value in this post-pandemic world where more and more companies are going hybrid, but there's still a good portion of the workforce that's trying to find their way in this ever-changing dynamic. I think the thing I would point to with Zoom because there's been a lot of questions about, oh, is this a company that can still really provide a lot of value as an investment in over the long term?
I just would point even to their most recent quarterly report, which was for the second quarter of their fiscal year 2022. During that three-month period, they grew their revenue 54% from the same period last year. So, a year on from basically what was the height of the pandemic, revenue was up 54% from that period.
I think another number that was really interesting was their customer base contributing more than a $100,000 in trailing 12-month's revenue was up a 131% year-over-year. Huge influx of customers and revenue, even a year on compared to this period where everything was in those most dire straits.
Another thing is there was a study by Upwork, the popular freelancing platform and their study found that 22% of the American workforce will be remote by 2025. You think of a platform like Zoom, I think it's going to be integral to that kind of a workspace. Zoom is my pick.
Jason Hall: I'm going to throw up a chart here about Zoom because I tend to get so enamored with this business and thinking about the economics. This is what the stock price has done over the past year, just this steady, steady, steady decline negative, and its revenue growth has slowed.
The company told us. We're going to have to moderate our revenue growth. But you think about the economics of this business. This is operating cash flow, $1.8 billion, and then free cash flow of $1.7 billion roughly.
This is a company that generates about 45% free cash flow margins. That is incredible. That is incredible. Even if its core Zoom business slows its growth, there are so many levers the company can grow.
This massive growing cash pile it's adding, I don't know, last quarter, I think it added $400 million in cash to its bottom line. I agree Rachel. I'm just say it's agree with Rachel day for me, I guess.
Rachel Warren: [laughs]
Jason Hall: What's happening here.
Rachel Warren: That works.
Jason Hall: Toby, how about you?
Toby Bordelon: Yeah, I know. I definitely agree on the Zoom thing. I think that's one to look at. I think if you're looking to invest in the remote work trend, let's go out that, you can separate it into two groups. You can go tech, you can go real estate. I think if you look into the tech side it's not only with WeWork, but it's not at all what they're doing right? But there any number of companies that you might look at there, Zoom being one of the obvious ones, maybe Microsoft, maybe Best Buy.
People are setting up their offices and all of that. Some of these SaaS companies business process oriented like Atlassian might be something to look at. You think about things like Salesforce with the Slack acquisition, DocuSign perhaps Cisco, Fiverr, there's ideas out there.
They think beyond the physical space when we're investing in this trend. If you do want to go real estate though, there are a lot of diversified office REITs out there you can look at. You can narrow down to ones that are in specifically growing areas and ones that might be looking at flexible-use space like how do we adapt to this new market? Some are quite forward thinking, so think about that. Assuming someone out there is like, " You know what, I really want to buy WeWork. I really want to invest in WeWork."
Okay, cool. I think before you make that decision, let me refer you to another company, IWG (IWG -1.37%), which is formerly known as Regus. It's trading on the London Stock Exchange, not a U.S. company, trades in the London Stock Exchange. But I pointed out because it is public.
You can go look at their financials. They've been around since 1989. I believe they were founded. They are similar to WeWork, the company is a little bit different but they still have that same model of, they called serviced offices, co-working space or a serviced private office in a group of offices. Look at them, look at WeWork's financials and ask yourself, why is WeWork so much better than IWG?
If you can't come up with an answer, I think you don't invest in WeWork. I think you need to convince yourself there's something different here than a 30-year old company that's been doing the same thing. What do they bring to the table? How do they innovate in space?
What are they doing differently? You can come up with some good answers, but I think you need to ask these questions. Don't go into this thinking it's a brand-new company with this new idea. It's been around for a few decades. Look at that and look at how they're different if you really want to look at WeWork.
Jason Hall: I've got a crazy one for you guys. Meritage Homes (MTH -2.98%), ticker MTH. You want to talk about the future of the way people work? How about companies that are building houses today?
Meritage Homes is one of the very best. They're really focused on entry-level starter home market to their huge demand. There are tons of people in little apartments or in condos that want more space because they are going to be working from home.
Meritage Homes is a great one. They're in that Sun Belt area, so you think about Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas all the way over through Texas. That is a ton of their business there in Colorado. Great company, great margins, growing like crazy and they pivoted to this starter home business four or five years ago and it's the vast majority of the business now. They don't do customer hardly at all now. Checkout Meritage Homes, I think it's a great one for this area.