Zoom Founder loses $5 billion following advent of COVID vaccine

Zoom boss Eric Yuan

The net worth of Zoom Founder and CEO, Eric Yuan reportedly dropped by a whopping US$5.1 billion after Pfizer Incorporated announced that the Covid-19 vaccine it’s developing with BioNTech SE prevented more than 90% of infections in a study. 

Eric Yuan is, in many ways, the poster child for the coronavirus economy as his Zoom Video Communications Inc. has hosted school lessons, family gatherings and business meetings for more than 300 million participants a day during the pandemic.

The stock of the Zoom video conferencing site has soared more than 500% this year and Yuan, a Chinese-born immigrant to the U.S., was at one point worth $28.6 billion — the 40th wealthiest person on the planet.

But his remarkable surge took a hit Monday after the COVID vaccine success – the most encouraging scientific advance so far in the battle against the virus – was announced. Zoom shares fell 17% in New York on Monday, and that erased $5.1 billion from Yuan’s net worth.

Meanwhile, airlines, oil giants and hotel operators surged on the back of the vaccine announcement, but stocks that benefited from lockdowns and work-from-home arrangements – such as Peloton Interactive Inc., Netflix Inc. and Sea Ltd. – Southeast Asia’s largest internet company and Zoom – all slumped. Even glovemakers in Asia that saw demand surge this year also took a hit today.

Yuan has sold more than $275 million of Zoom stock in 2020 and is still worth $20 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Peloton founder John Foley became a billionaire on the stunning rise in the home-fitness company’s shares. He’s down $300 million after the stock tumbled 20%.

Reed Hastings, chief executive officer of movie and television streaming service Netflix, saw his wealth decline by $416 million. Forrest Li, the billionaire behind Singapore-based Sea, lost almost $1 billion as his company’s American depositary receipts fell 9.5% in the U.S. Monday.

Glovemakers, which produced at least five billionaires as their shares surged during the pandemic, sank on Tuesday. Top Glove Corp., the world’s biggest rubber glove maker, lost as much as 11% in early trading in Malaysia. Riverstone Holdings Ltd. plunged 13%, while Hartalega Holdings Bhd., Kossan Rubber Industries Bhd. and Supermax Corp. all fell more than 8%, sinking the fortunes of their owners.

FedEx Corp. Chairman Fred Smith’s net worth dropped by about $250 million as shares of the express shipping company fell 5.7%. His wealth had surged this year by more than 70% through Friday as remote working and booming e-commerce boosted demand for package-delivery services. Jay Chaudhry, CEO of cybersecurity firm Zscaler Inc. and Tim Steiner, the co-founder of U.K. online supermarket Ocado Group Plc, also slumped in the fallout of Pfizer’s vaccine study.

The key question now is whether those extraordinary gains can hold, or whether people will stop using the services of companies like Zoom after the pandemic ends and they return to the workplace.

‘Normal Volatility’

“I don’t think the trend around e-commerce, video collaboration or shift-to-cloud will change as a result of the vaccine,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Mandeep Singh. “The valuations look rich for some of these names, but some of these are multi-year growth stories. This is just normal volatility as investors look to rotate into sectors that have been depressed due to the pandemic such as travel, casinos and hospitality.”

‘Ortega, Rowling’

Meanwhile, some firms and their billionaire owners are holding onto their gains. The fortunes of Zara founder Amancio Ortega and his daughter Sandra surged through their stakes in fast-fashion retailer Inditex SA as the vaccine study boosted hopes of consumers returning to brick-and-mortar shops. Hotelier Robert Rowling, as well as industrialist Georg Schaeffler and the Deichmann family who control one of Europe’s largest shoe retailers also saw their wealth increase Monday.

Some companies are optimistic that even after the pandemic is brought under control, people will continue to use their services.

“How can anybody be tired of Zoom?” CEO Kelly Steckelberg said in a June interview with Bloomberg TV. “Video communication has been integrated into all aspects of our lives.”


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