Five Companies That Are Thriving During COVID-19
High streets are still deserted, and recession warnings are coming thick and fast – but it’s not all doom and gloom. Some companies aren’t just surviving – they are thriving during COVID-19.
Citizens the world over have spent the last few months trapped in their houses twiddling thumbs, and their tech-based businesses have stepped into the breach.
We take a look at five tech giants that are doing more than weathering the storm, how they are doing it, and, crucially, what might happen next.
In April, Netflix, the digital entertainment company, announced that it had added 15.77 million new subscribers to its books in three months – more than double the 7 million it had expected.
Helped along by viral hits such as the Tiger King documentary series, which was watched by about 64 million customers, the viewing platform was perfectly placed to help people fill the void.
While the news sent stock prices soaring by 10%, they settled back to a 1% gain when the company said it couldn’t use the last three months to predict future growth.
Said the company in a statement: “At Netflix, we’re acutely aware that we are fortunate to have a service that is even more meaningful to people confined at home, and which we can operate remotely with minimal disruption in the short to medium term.
“Like other home entertainment services, we’re seeing temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth.”
In the first three months of 2020, Amazon had revenues of $75.4 billion. That’s the equivalent of $33 million an hour.
As shortages of everything from toilet roll to free weights became commonplace, house-bound customers turned to the digital commerce giant in their droves.
But while sales were 26% up on the same time last year, profit actually fell by 29% as the company went on a massive employment drive and invested in personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
“Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $4 billion from April to June on COVID-related initiatives to get products to customers and keep employees safe,” said a company spokesman.
“This includes spending more than $800 million in the first half of the year on COVID-19 safety measures, with investments in PPE equipment, enhanced cleaning of our facilities, less efficient process paths that better allow for effective social distancing, higher wages for hourly teams, and developing our own COVID-19 testing capabilities, etc.”
As our physical worlds have shrunk, our virtual realms have grown and taken on new meaning, helping to keep family, friends, and work colleagues alike to stay connected.
Facebook, which reported an 18% year-on-year increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2020, has reaped the benefits of this.
The social media leader saw its shares jump by 8% when users of its apps, which include Instagram and WhatsApp, had increased from 2.89bn to 2.99bn in just one quarter. This added around $44 billion to the company’s market value, despite a slump in advertising revenues.
After the initial steep decrease in advertising revenue in March, the company said it had “seen signs of stability” in the first three weeks of April. But CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not anticipating a “return to normal” any time soon.
“While there are massive societal costs from the current shelter-in-place restrictions, I worry that reopening certain places too quickly before infection rates have been reduced to very minimal levels will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worsen longer-term health and economic outcomes," he said.
If so, it means Facebook Live-streamed entertainment, education and exercise may very well be here to stay.
Online fashion retailer Boohoo posted a 44% jump in revenues for the year ending February 2020. A 54% year-on-year rise in pre-tax profits is no mean feat when the country has been sat in its pyjamas for almost three months.
The secret, according to head of the group that also owns PrettyLittleThing and NastyGal, John Lyttole, is adaptation. Instead of party dresses and trendy office wear, the sites have been pushing jogging bottoms, hoodies and Zoom meeting-friendly smart tops.
"Our business is founded on our ability to be agile and flexible and it is at times like this when these abilities are tested," Lyttle said in a statement to investors.
"I am proud of how our colleagues and business partners from around the world have responded to the challenges posed by this pandemic."
Supported by its intense and proactive social media and influencer campaigns, the company hopes to retain its burgeoning customer base when the shops re-open for business.
Nintendo has also been doing its bit to keep the world entertained during lock down. In doing so, the Japanese gaming giant has recorded its highest surge in operating profit in nine years.
At the start of May, the company announced a $3.3 billion operating profit for the fiscal year ending in March, up by 41% compared to a year ago. Profits in the three months to March were more than triple than those recorded in the previous quarter.
Much of the success was attributed to a single release, Animal Crossing: New Horizon, which sold more than 13 million units in the first six weeks of release, and the hardware it runs on, the Switch. This was despite COVID-induced factory closures in China slowing the output of consoles.
However, the company has warned that operating profit will decline in the current fiscal year. Delays to production and shipping are expected to continue as the world gets to grips with the pandemic, and “work-from-home conditions” for staff are likely to delay new software releases, it said.
Tech companies have thrived during the COVID-19 lockdown, as millions of people turn to the internet to fight boredom and stay connected.
Now, as the world takes its tentative first steps towards the so-called “new normal”, they must stay agile if they are to turn a temporary boom into long-term gains.
Update on Tech M&A During COVID-19: Webinar series
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Hampleton Partners is at the forefront of international mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance advisory for companies with technology at their core. Hampleton’s experienced deal makers have built, bought and sold over 100 fast-growing tech businesses and provide hands-on expertise and unrivalled advice to tech entrepreneurs and companies which are looking to accelerate growth and maximise value.
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