Shares of Zoom Video Communications (ZM 3.68%) fell 23% in November, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence. The online meetings specialist's red-hot trajectory in 2020 turned sour this year. Zoom's stock has now lost more than half of its value over the last 52 weeks, missing out on a 27% gain in the S&P 500 market index:
Zoom's November pain started in the first week of the month. Pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer presented strong results from trials of an anti-coronavirus pill, driving many stocks sharply higher as investors saw a quicker end to the global health crisis. The same idea undermined Zoom's business prospects as the need for remote video meetings should fade out as workers go back to their office desks. Zoom shares closed 6% lower that day.
The stock took another big hit two weeks later, making a 14.7% retreat on Nov. 23. This time, the culprit was a solid earnings report with hints of worse news to come.
Third-quarter sales rose 35% year over year to $1.05 billion. Adjusted earnings increased by 12% to $1.11 per diluted share. Your average analyst would have settled for earnings near $1.09 per share on revenue in the neighborhood of $1.02 billion. That type of modest surprise would normally be enough to support even a surging stock price. Not this time, and here's why:
The business boost that Zoom enjoyed at the height of the pandemic is clearly fading away, with or without Pfizer's new coronavirus treatment and other recent developments. That's a scary prospect for many investors, especially if they picked up Zoom stock in the hope of scoring enormous short-term gains.
The COVID boost may be going away but it also left a lasting imprint on Zoom's reported results and shareholder returns. Remember that disappointing one-year price chart at the top of this article? Let's stretch it out to a two-year view instead and add one important financial metric:
Shareholders who got in before the pandemic have seen their investment triple in two years. Over the same period, revenue rose more than sixfold and annual free cash flow skyrocketed from $90 million to $1.65 billion.
In other words, Zoom Video's business is much healthier than it might look in the context of year-over-year comparisons. All things considered, Zoom could actually be a decent buy at today's reasonable prices.