COVID-19 has been a big shot in the arm for tech companies that have been able to capitalise on the work-from-home (WFH) boom.

Global lockdowns led to a rapid rise in the number of employees shifting to remote working. Roy Morgan estimated that in Australia this equated to 4.3 million people at the peak of restrictions.

As for the US, Slack estimated that on March 27, 16 million people who previously worked in offices were now working remotely. While it hasn’t updated that figure since, it admits that number is likely much higher now.


Helping the transition

Jason Baden, regional vice president at application delivery firm F5, told Stockhead that businesses had to take proactive steps to ensure operating remotely would work.

He said as a firm, helping facilitate the transition business for F5 was “busier than ever”.

“You needed to be able to get staff to be able get home, use those applications and make sure they’re working,” Baden explained.

“Working with some of the largest customers — banks and government — they weren’t ready for that at the time it happened. So there was really a big amount of work.

“We worked closely with those customers to make sure they could get home but ensure their applications, information and all of the staff details were safe and secure at the same time.”

The first listed company you might think of as a winner from the rapid acceleration of working from home is Zoom Communications (NDQ:ZOOM).

It is up 400 per cent in 12 months and is now trading around $US411 ($561).

But a bunch of ASX-listed tech companies have also been beneficiaries of the WFH boom.


Data centres

Data centre operators are among the winners. Leading the charge is large cap NextDC (ASX:NXT) which is up 80 per cent in 12 months.

Earlier this month Stockhead spoke with its current boss Craig Scroggie who explained that data centres were designed for these circumstances.

2020 has been a record year for NextDC, with total revenues exceeding $200m.

“We started the year with bushfires and many of those were the scale of one in 100 year type events, then enormous floods — more one in 100 year events — and you throw the global pandemic on top of that you get a hat-trick of extraordinary challenging circumstances,” he said.

“But all of these are essentially what a data centre is built to protect against, ensuring that infrastructure, communications and networks can still operate regardless of what the trying times may be.”

Business-to-business telco 5GN Networks (ASX:5GN), meanwhile, is building its own network of data centres.

This company has more than doubled in a year and says it is well-positioned for the next 12 months. It is estimating $60-$65m in revenues and $8m in earnings in FY21.

NXT & 5GN share price chart


Other winners

There is no shortage of telcos and internet providers on the ASX that have benefited. But stocks that have unique technologies have done particularly well during the WFH boom.

Vonex (ASX:VN8), one of the biggest winners, for example, in February and March witnessed softphone sales growth of 1,000 per cent over the same months of 2019.

The momentum has continued, with the company finishing the first half of the year with $3.7m in total contract value (TCV) of new customer sales — 65 per cent up year on year.

Additionally, the company is building a platform, called Oper8tor, allowing users to communicate across communications platforms (such as Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp) regardless of whether or not they are using the same platform.

The company is up over 50 per cent in 12 months.

An even bigger winner is cloud communications software Whispir (ASX:WSP), which in six months has gone from under $1 to $3.49.

In March, Victoria’s government hired it to help it communicate with COVID-19 patients and people in self-isolation.

Whispir’s annualised recurring revenue (ARR) for FY20 is up 34 per cent year on year.

VN8 & WSP share price chart