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MarketWatch First Take: As growth slows, where does Zoom go from here?

As Zoom Video Inc.’s skyrocketing growth rate slows and heads back to earth, investors are now wondering what is next for the videoconferencing company.

On Monday, Zoom
ZM,
+5.81%

reported slightly better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings, with revenue of $1.071 billion, up 21% from a year ago. On an annual basis, Zoom revenue grew to $4.099 billion, up 55% from the fiscal 2021 ended in January. But its shares initially tumbled 10% in after-hours trading, as the company’s fiscal 2023 outlook called for revenue growth of approximately 11%.

That is quite the turnaround from the whopping growth rate that the company saw after the pandemic began and its service proved to be a godsend for remote workers, companies and organizations and consumers. In fiscal 2020, its revenue grew 88%, But then in fiscal 2021, several weeks shy of the first full year of the stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, revenue soared 326% to $2.65 billion, in what would be its peak, triple-digit revenue growth rate.

During the company’s call with analysts Monday, executives received many questions about its plans to expand and to focus more on corporate customers and other initiatives, as its huge pandemic growth surge appears to be at an end. The company also announced that as of the fiscal first quarter, it would no longer give the number of customers with 10 employees or more, and going forward it would provide metrics on companies with $100,000 in trailing 12 months revenue.

“We will provide metrics that more closely aligned with the way our internal view of the business has evolved following this period of unprecedented growth,” said Kelly Steckelberg, Zoom’s chief financial officer. The company will now refer to customers in the “self-serve model,” as the online segment, which would include consumers, many of whom use the service for free. Online represented approximately 25% of revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter, but is predicted to be “flattish” over the next year.

Steckelberg noted that Zoom is expanding to more enterprise, or corporate, customers, but she also said the company would not be raising its prices. Part of its strategy is to also convert some of those free customers into paying ones, and it faces competition from Microsoft Corp.’s
MSFT,
+0.50%

Teams and Cisco Systems Inc.’s
CSCO,
-0.48%

WebEx and RingCentral Inc.
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+2.46%
,
which all have overlapping product features.

Zoom founder and Chief Executive Eric Yuan believes that in some cases, Zoom can co-exist with these rivals, noting that many customers have both Microsoft Office 365 and Zoom, adding that the market is huge.

He also highlighted the ongoing efforts on a new call-center product, and other new products going forward, a move that will also weigh on the company’s margins.

“We are working very hard to transition from a meeting company to a platform company,” Yuan said in response to an analyst question asking how Zoom was preparing for the next chapter.

There have been some hiccups in those plans. Last fall, Zoom called off its nearly $15 billion, all-stock deal to buy Five9 Inc.
FIVN,
+2.87%
,
after shareholders voted against it, amid the decline in Zoom’s stock price. Five9 develops a communications platform for call centers, so in the absence of the merger, Zoom began to develop the technology itself.

Zoom has also developed the Zoom Phone, which executives said had a strong fourth quarter, including adding a major bank as a customer, but the company did not break out its revenue. Baird analyst William Power had estimated in a note last week that Zoom Phone was less than 10% of total revenue.

Hybrid work is also big part of Zoom’s strategy. When asked about the changing world, as the pandemic eases and people begin traveling again, Steckelberg said that the company was gearing its Zoom Events strategy to that hybrid environment, where some workers or attendees remain at home, and others are in person. “It can accommodate both in-person as well as virtual attendees, and that’s what we really think is going to be the future, because people, I think, are excited to be out and being traveling again,” she said.

So as investors learn more about the company’s plans for the future, there are a lot of moving parts and uncertainties. Whether or not Zoom can pull off its expansion plans and tap this potentially large opportunity, or whether it’s a one-trick pony, is the big question.

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