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Lockdowns and school closures are spelling both good news and bad news for educational publisher Pearsons.
The global publishing firm’s stock fell by almost ten per cent on the back of a profit warning and the news that it will suspend its share buy-back programme and investigate cost cutting measures. It is likely to be adversely affected by the Government’s decision to cancel GCSE and A-Level exams and the closure of 22,000 test centres that assess a range of other qualifications.
Its share price now stands at 507.49p and the closure of its VUE testing centres until at least mid-April is expected to affect operating profit by at least £25m to £35m. Testing cancellations in the US are predicted to be detrimental to operating profit by at least a further £15m with more announcements still to come there.
It’s not all bad news for the education giant though, some analysts are optimistic about the potential that the influx of home-schooling could have on its online resources. Carol Vorderman announced her maths site, which is Pearson-owned, would offer free access to parents this week and the site was swamped with interest causing it to temporarily crash. Pearson has been trying to revamp its digital offering for some time so the current school, college and university closures could provide a boost for its online offering. Neil Wilson from Markets.com said: “’Pearson has paused its buyback but is benefiting from a significant rise on online product – it could be a key moment in this division, albeit clearly there is an impact on its businesses that rely on learners and staff being able to access physical sites.’
Barclays upped its rating on the educational publisher to ‘equal weight’ this week and raised its target price to 540p but it also slashed its earnings per share forecast for 2020 by 24 per cent.
Another company that has been impacted by the sudden shift to distance working and learning is online conferencing firm Zoom. Its shares have soared 107 per cent since the beginning of the year, now standing at 140.28p at the time of writing.
The software has come into its own since coronavirus quarantine, enabling home schooling, remote working and online parties with ease. With a market capitalisation of just over $39 billion, including cash and cash equivalents of $855 million, the stock is now trading at almost 32 times the revenue it is projected to make next year.
So, has the online conferencing software reached its peak or could its price still zoom further into the stratosphere?
Obviously, the current unprecedented situation has helped its growth enormously but it’s interesting that its expansion is still faster than its other competitors in the same marketplace. Zoom’s revenue growth is projected to be almost 50 per cent this year, compared to Twilo’s expectation of 30.6 per cent and Workday’s projected growth of 20 per cent. RBC Capital analyst, Alex Zukin points out that: “Downloads of the Zoom smartphone app this month are 183% above recent averages on a daily basis.”
Even before the widespread switch to remote working, Zoom had reported some impressive results with a revenue growth of 78 per cent year on year to $188 million and a 61 per cent surge in customers with over ten employees.
With $855 million in cash and no debt, the video conferencing firm also has a strong balance sheet so there could easily be the potential for the party to stretch on beyond the current pandemic.
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