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Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Communications takes part in a bell ringing ceremony at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York, New York, US on April 18, 2019. Photo: Reuters

Zoom nearly doubles revenue forecast on coronavirus remote-work boost, but costs rising

  • Zoom has transformed itself into a global video hang-out from a business-oriented teleconferencing tool
  • But it has come under fire over privacy and security issues, prompting it to roll out major upgrades
Zoom Video Communications nearly doubled its expectations for annual sales on Tuesday, driven by a surge in users as more people work from home and connect with friends online during coronavirus lockdowns.

But Zoom’s costs also rose sharply, and executives said gross margins would likely remain below Zoom’s historical norms in the coming quarters, sending shares of the San Jose, California-based down 3.5 per cent to US$200.75 in aftermarket trading.

The company has transformed itself into a global video hang-out from a business-oriented teleconferencing tool. It came under fire over privacy and security issues, prompting it to roll out major upgrades.

The company raised its full-year revenue forecast to a range of US$1.78 billion to US$1.8 billion from US$905 million to US$915 million. Analysts on average expected revenue of US$935.2 million for the financial year ending January 2021.

The latest quarterly report shows the company now has about 265,400 customers with more than 10 employees, a near fourfold increase from a year earlier.

Zoom CEO acknowledges security ‘missteps’ in live-stream

But there were also possible signs the Zoom boom may be slowing as economies reopen. Chief financial officer Kelly Steckelberg said the April peak usage of 300 million daily meeting participants declined slightly in May.

The company expects it to rise eventually above 300 million again.

Zoom company competes with Cisco Systems’s Webex, Microsoft Teams and Google’s Meet platform for paying customers, particularly enterprises, while offering a free version to consumers.

Zoom reported fiscal first-quarter revenue of US$328.2 million, beating analysts’ estimates of US$202.7 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

While Zoom’s revenue increased sharply, its costs rose even more steeply. The company’s cost of revenue was up 330 per cent to US$103.7 million, which lowered its gross margin to 68.4 per cent from 80.2 per cent a year earlier.

Zoom will seek public feedback on plan for stronger encryption

One of Zoom’s biggest costs is data centers and bandwidth to host calls. The company runs some of its own data centers, but also pays for cloud computing services from Amazon’s Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, and in April added Oracle as a vendor.

On a Zoom call with investors, chief executive Eric Yuan said Amazon provided the “majority” of new capacity that Zoom needed to meet demand.

Steckelberg said on the call that the company planned to expand its own data centers to become more efficient, which should boost margins to the mid-70 per cent range in the next several quarters. Analysts had expected gross margins to hover between 79 per cent and 81 per cent over the coming year, according to Refinitiv data.

Excluding items, the company earned 20 cents per share in the latest quarter, beating analysts’ estimate of 9 cents.

Zoom’s shares have more than tripled this year.