Untold thousands of investors have bought stock in Zoom Technologies, apparently mistaking it for Zoom Video Communications, which just launched a hugely successful IPO. It's a frighteningly easy mistake to make, and one you should watch out for if you decide to invest in the newly public video-conferencing startup. I nearly confused the two myself--be careful you don't.

Zoom Technologies' ticker symbol is ZOOM, and it's traded over-the-counter, while Zoom Video Communications uses the symbol ZM and is traded on the Nasdaq. Zoom Technologies, in case you're wondering, is a tiny developer of mobile phone components based in Beijing. It's a penny stock--at least until recently--having been delisted from the Nasdaq in 2014. About a month ago, before the apparent confusion, it was trading at .005 cents a share. In fact, the company has asked the SEC to be allowed to go private and stop being a public company altogether. Zoom Technologies has all of 10 employees.

Starting around the time Zoom Video Communications filed for its initial public offering in late March, Zoom Technologies' price began flying upward. It peaked at more than $5, and it's about $2.70 today, a rise of about 54,000 percent that can only be explained by a massive case of mistaken identity.

No wonder there's confusion. Google is usually helpful if you want to find things but, at least at this moment, if you enter "Zoom share price" into Google search, Zoom Technologies is what you get. I stumbled upon this when I did that search while planning to write about the (real) Zoom IPO--I wanted to see the most recent share price. Fortunately, I'd seen the headlines about Zoom Video Communications' spectacular rise from a planned IPO at $33 to $35 a share to its close at $62 a share. So I was confused, but pretty sure that a company trading at $2.70 was not the right Zoom.

Speaking of the right Zoom, its leaders are likely popping champagne corks right now. Before the IPO, the company's last private valuation was $1 billion. Zoom announced its IPO price at $28 to $32 per share, giving it a maximum valuation of $8.25 billion, which seemed pretty ambitious by comparison. Then it thought about things some more and upped that IPO range to $33 to $35 a share, for a maximum valuation just under $9 billion. But anyone who considered that too much got their comeuppance when the share price closed at $62 on its first day of trading, for a fully diluted valuation of more than $18 billion. Zoom founder Eric Yuan told The New York Times that the share price made him think, "Wow, I better go back tonight to get back to work."

Though less spectacular than Zoom Technologies' 54,000-percent increase, Zoom Video Communications' very impressive rise is equally easy to explain because it has something exceedingly rare among high-profile tech companies when they go public--a balance sheet in the black. Contrast this with Uber, another upcoming IPO. Its prospectus says that Uber may never become profitable which is a standard, and worrisome, disclaimer from tech companies going public these days. Zoom already is profitable, which really does make it as rare as the mythological unicorn

As for Zoom Technologies, if you've made the perfectly understandable mistake of buying ZOOM instead of ZM, you might want to unload those shares quickly--before all the other buyers realize their error, and the share price goes back down to where it's supposed to be.

Published on: Apr 18, 2019
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