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Stocks For The New Normal Of Social Distancing, Working From Home & Economic Crisis

By this point just about everyone on the planet who has the option to work from home is doing it. This is “the new normal,” according to many. In addition, “The Great Lockdown,” the name the IMF gave to the coronavirus pandemic response, will lead to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. 

These two forces combined will likely lead to more people working from home. Unless people demand rights given to them in the Constitution of many nations, the government will likely be able to close down “non-essential” businesses at will. With the economic depression we expect, many businesses will simply not reopen. The big winners will be the conglomerates with the cash reserves needed to sustain a shutdown. Therefore, online businesses will be seen as a safer bet than traditional brick and mortar.

Ark Investment Management CEO Catherine Wood, a successful Wall Street portfolio manager who specializes in disruptive innovation investments, notes that coronavirus will accelerate innovation. “During the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes, innovation gained more traction than most investors had expected. Companies offering faster, cheaper, more cost effective, and creative products and services gained significant share,” Wood wrote on March 3. “Software-as-a-Service and online retail were prime beneficiaries during the (2008 Global Financial Crisis).”

According to Bank of America, FMS investors care long cash, healthcare, staples, utilities, US, tech, bonds.

Conglomerates

Alphabet: Working from home will send dollars from traditional TV ads into digital, exacerbating a trend that has been well underway. Alphabet’ subsidiary, Google (including YouTube), and Facebook are leaders in the digital ad space. In 2019, Google Advertising Revenue consisted of Google Properties segment and Google Network members’ properties segment, and will contribute 83.3% of Alphabet’s Total Revenue for 2019.

Alphabet’s 10-year return of 405% from January 2010 and December 2019 attests to its being one of the hottest tech stocks of the decade. 

Google’s search engine enjoys 88% of the market share. 

The company holds $121 billion in cash equivalents with $4 billion in debt. The company is in a good position to continue with research and development and can use its cash hoard to support stock price and acquire companies. 

Alphabet is the internet’s middleman. Their products and data collections efforts are being used to build an artificial intelligence program, and the company is positioned to experience exponential growth in the emerging markets of Asia, specifically China and India. 

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): Apple stock has increased 1,000% over that time frame. The company currently has $100.6 billion in cash on hand. This pioneer of the smartphone, which also offers Macs and iPads, enjoys increasing gross margin as it shifts towards services, including subscription-based content such as streaming services for Apple Music and Apple TV+, which provides exclusive content. 

Apple Services, such as the App Store, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and iCloud, were just released in 20 more countries, and Apple Music is available in 52 more countries. Apple Music is growing as the technology company looks to take on Spotify. 

Apple’s cooperation with Google on a contact tracing app also solidifies its case as potential key infrastructure. Furthermore, according to recent leaks, Apple has a slate of new products on deck set to be announced this year.

Apple’s research and development budget has been increasing over time, too. Apple’s research and development efforts have continued to increase, as Apple spent $4.2 billion on R&D, which marked the most the company had ever spent on R&D.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) – Microsoft’s market value is $1.0 trillion. The company has $136.6 billion in cash on hand.

Microsoft’s enterprise messaging platform, Teams, passed Slack Technologies’ Slack as the leading workplace messaging app with 13 million daily users by halfway through 2019. 

That number had grown to more than 20 million by the end of the year, as increasing numbers of America’s largest companies bought in. 

Teams appears to be the choice among large companies, along with Skype and Azure products. Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool for global, remote, and dispersed teams. Features include document collaboration, one-on-one chat, team chat, and more. The company has offered a free version of Microsoft Teams.

As noted social media experts predicted, and as has come true, LinkedIn has seen tremendous growth in activity on its platform in recent years.  Google searches of Microsoft Teams skyrocketed in March 2020. Overall, Microsoft’s cloud offerings have offset pandemic losses.

Amazon: With $43.7 billion cash on hand, Amazon distributes downloads and streaming of video, music, and audiobooks, has a publishing arm, as well as a film and television studio. Its cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services has become one of the leading hosting providers. 

The range of products and services Amazon provides is extensive, including downloads and streams of video, music, audiobooks (Prime Video, Amazon Music, and Audible), a publishing arm (Amazon Publishing), a film and television studio (Amazon Studios), and a cloud computing subsidiary (Amazon Web Services). The company also produces consumer electronics, such as Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Echo devices. Amazon has acquired Ring, Twitch, Whole Foods Market, and IMDb. 

Amazon is not only a tech conglomerate, but it also a leader in delivery groceries, including organic food. As of 2018, Amazon Prime had more than 100 million worldwide accounts.

The benefits of membership extend to WholeFoods shoppers. Thanks to other profitable services, such as Amazon Web Services, Amazon can offer organic food at low margins. 

Amazon has created a worldwide center of fulfillment centers. No other companies offer free two-day shipping, access to streaming content, organic food deals, and more. 
During the Federal Reserve’s 2020 quantitative easing program, the company also received $24 billion in bailout money. 

Oracle Corporation  – The American multinational computer technology corporation headquartered in Redwood Shores, California, Oracle, sells database software and technology, cloud engineered systems, and enterprise software. In 2019, Oracle was the second-largest software company by revenue and market capitalization. Oracle has $35.7 billion of cash on hand.

The company also develops and builds tool for database development and middle-tier software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, Human Capital Management (HCM) software, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and supply chain management (SCM) software. 

Walmart Inc. (NYSE:WMT) –  The largest retailer in the World, WalMart owns an operates Sam’ Club retail warehouses, as well. On January 31, 2020, Walmart had 11,503 stores and clubs in 27 countries operating under 55 different brands. 

It operates as Walmart in Mexico and Central America, Asda in the United Kingdom, Seiyu Group in Japan, Big in Brazil, and Best Price in India and as wholly owned operations in Argentina, Chile, Canada, and South Africa. 

By 1988, WalMart was the most profitable retailer in the U.S., and had become the largest in terms of revenue by October 1989.  Walmart has its own distribution centers for its grocery offerings. 

Social Media 

Facebook – As one of the market leaders in the digital advertising industry, Facebook has become a cloud computing behemoth that dumps dollars into growing its ecosystem of cloud-based tools for users and businesses alike. Facebook, which holds $52.3 billion on hand, has grown its revenue 1,800% since 2012, with $71 billion in 2019. It has $21.1 billion in free cash flow. 

In ARPU terms, Facebook has much room for growth in much of the world. While its ARPU in North America was $41.41 in North America, that number drops to $13.21 in Europe; $3.57 in Asia-Pacific; and $2.48 in the rest of the world. 

Twitter (TWTR) – This American microblogging and social networking service came to dominate in the 2010s the news through public messages called “tweets.” Twitter was created in March 2006 and launched in July of that year.  

As it becomes a leading news aggregator, Twitter has apparently even reached capacity. When Twitter was down earlier this week, Twitter followers saw the message: “Twitter is over capacity.”  To be sure, the site has claimed to be over capacity before. 

Cloud

Salesforce.com, Inc – This San Francisco-based company provides customer-relationship management (CRM) service with a suite of enterprise applications for customer service, marketing automation, analytics, and application development. 

Salesforce started out as a maker of customer relationship management (CRM) software. It quickly gained notoriety because of co-founder and current CEO Marc Benioff’s ardent championing of cloud computing — services delivered remotely via an internet connection. Cloud computing has become the standard. 

The cloud thrives when the world works from home. The company’s recent acquisition of MuleSoft provided it with another powerful competitive advantage: MuleSoft offers highly regarded data integration solutions, at a time when businesses are coming to recognize the need to combine and analyze data from many disparate sources. MuleSoft has added new products since the acquisition.

Salesforce has divisions focused on basic productivity tools, advanced analytics, and AI, adding tens of thousands of software developers and related professions to its ecosystem of services every year.

Cloudflare – This American web-infrastructure and website-security company provides content delivery network services, DDoS mitigation, internet security, and distributed domain-name-server services. Cloudflare’s services exist between a website visitor and the Cloudflare user’s hosting provider and serves as a reverse proxy for websites. 

Clouldflare’s cloud-based services include firewalls, routing, virtual private networks (VPN), traffic optimization, and load balancing. Millions of websites use the services. While the company offers a “freemium” model, which protects websites from DDoS attacks, reduces load times, and protects against malicious attacks, paying customers get more advanced security offerings, mobile optimization, faster network speeds, and additional customized features. 

The company has grown its paying user base over the past three years, but is shrouded by questions of its ability to create positive cash flow.  The company has been called one of the most innovative companies on the web by Fast Company and The Innovation Awards.

Dropbox  –  From its San Francisco headquarters, Dropbox offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. Dropbox received the Crunchie Award in 2010 for Best Internet Application, and Macworld’s 2009 Editor’s Choice Award for Software. 

It has been ranked as one of the most valuable startups in the US and the world. As one of Y Combinator’s most successful investments, Dropbox has a five star privacy rating from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 

Users get accounts with a set storage size for free. Paid subscriptions offer additional capacity and features. 

Dropbox announced in November 2014 a partnership with Microsoft to integrate Dropbox and Microsoft Office applications on iOS, Android, and the Office 265 applications on the web. Dropbox announced its partnership July 2018 with Salesforce to improve brand engagement and team productivity. 

DocuSign, Inc. – With Docusign, organizations can manage electronic agreements. The San Francisco-based company provides DocuSign Agreement Cloud’s provides the eSignature product, which is a way to sign electronically on different devices. DocuSign has more than 475,000 customers and hundreds of millions of users in over 180 countries. 

DocuSign signatures comply with the U.S. ESIGN Act and the European Union’s eIDAS regulation, including EU Advanced and EU Qualified Signatures.

Docusign filed in April 2018 for an IPO, and went public on NASDAQ on April 27. The shareholders at the time were Sigma Partners, Ignition Partners, Frazier Technology Ventures, and former CEO Keith Krach. None of the original founders today are major shareholders.

The company’s services include subscription or free of charge as a mobile devices app. Signatures and documents are uploaded, then encrypted and unique hash created. If a signed document is later checked, the hash will not match the information stored by DocuSign in the event a document has been tampered with or compromised. 

DocuSign’s mobile app DocuSign Ink is available free of charge Apple, iOS, Google Android, and Windows Phone, and allows users to sign and annotate documents with stored signatures that are created in graphic design software, captured from an image of a paper document or selected from a variety of prefabricated signatures based on a user’s legal name. These signatures are then applied to PDFs, word processing documents, etc. 

Slack Technologies’ (Work) – This San Francisco-based company’s flagship product, Slack, is an instant messaging platform with IRC-style features, such as persistent chat rooms (channels) that are organized by topic, private groups, and direct messaging. It allows users to search content––including files, conversations, and people––from within Slack.

Slack provides an API so that users can create applications and automate processes, like ending automatic notifications based on human input, sending alerts on specified conditions, and automatically creating internal support tickets. Slack’s API has been highlighted for its compatibility with many types of applications, frameworks, and services. 

Slack announced in March 2018 a partnership with financial and human capital management firm Workday, whose customers can access Workday features directly from the Slack interface.

The company outlines its goals in its S-1:

“Slack is a new layer of the business technology stack that brings together people, applications, and data – a single place where people can effectively work together, access hundreds of thousands of critical applications and services, and find important information to do their best work.”

Workday, Inc. – This American on-demand cloud-based financial management and human capital management software vendor, launched in 2012 its IPO and was valued at $9.5 billion. Workday’s competitors include SAP Success factors, Oracle, Zoho and beqom. In 2014, Workday acquired the startup Identified and its artificial intelligence Syman to create its Insight Apps product line.

The company opened its platform  in 2017 to developers, partners and third party software. Workday acquired SkipFlag in 2018, which created an AI knowledge base that builds itself from a company’s internal communications. 

Twilio – This cloud communications platform as a service (CPaaS) company, which is based in San Francisco, allows software developers to programmatically make and receive phone calls, send and receive text messages, and perform other communications functions with its web service APIs. It offers products for voice, SMS, MMS, SIP Trunking, WebRTC, 2FA, and call center. 

Twilio is a great tool for solopreneurs who want to have all the benefits of enterprise cloud-based products, but not the costs. While a bit of coding experience is needed, Twilio allows those with a certain level of these skills to create an enterprise workshop from their home. Twilio acquired Sendgrid, $2 billion acquisition of SendGrid, an email API platform.

Twilio facilitated the operations of such powerful names of Uber and Lyft, as well as AirBnB.

Twilio’s partners include Salesforce, Zendesk, and more.

Xero Ltd  – Xero is a New Zealand domiciled technology company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. Xero provides cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses. Xero’s software as a service (Saas) subscription model offers a single unified ledger so users can work in the same set of books regardless of location and operating system. 

Xero, which has more than 200 secure connections with banks and financial service partners globally, features include automatic bank fees, invoicing, accounts payable, expense claims, fixed asset depreciation, purchase orders, bank reconciliations, and standard business, and management reporting. The app supports multiple tax rates and currencies, and incorporates payroll, projects, and expenses features. Xero has partnered with Stripe and PayPal so invoices can be paid directly from the invoice.

During 2019, Xero embraced several national initiatives, including Making Tax Digital in the United Kingdom, Single Toch Payroll in Australia, and Payday Filing in New Zealand. 

Billionaire Peter Thiel invested in 2010 in Xero. He joined Xero’s U.S. advisory board.

AKAMAI Technologies (AKAM) – This Cambridge, Massachusetts-based American content delivery network (CDN), cybersecurity, and cloud service provider is one of the world’s largest distributed computing platforms. The company serves between 15% and 30% of all web traffic. As a content delivery network, Akamai is a bit of a winner amid the coronavirus panic, with internet traffic soaring. 

The company’s global network of servers rents out capacity to customers who want to distribute content from locations close to the user. When a web surfer goes to the URL of an Akamai customer, their browser is redirected to one of Akamai’s copies of the website.

The Akamai Intelligent Platform is a worldwide distributed cloud computing platform that operates worldwide is a network with approximately 240,000 servers globally. Such servers reside in roughly 1,500 of the world’s networks gathering real-time information about traffic, congestion, and trouble spots. 

Each Akamai server has proprietary software using complex algorithms to process requests from nearby users, and then deliver the requested content. 

Akamai also delivers content from other end user’ computers using peer-to-peer networking. The company’s data visualization tools display how data is moving across the internet in real-time. Viewers are able to see global web conditions, malicious attack traffic, industry specific traffic, and mobile trends. Akamai provides the Internet Visualization application, allowing users to view real-time data on their mobile device. In its OPEN Initiative, customers and partners develop and customize the way in which they interface with the Akamai Intelligent Platform, including system and development operation integration, real-time big data integration, and a single-point user interface. 

ServiceNow, Inc. – ServiceNow is an American cloud computing company headquartered in Santa Clara, California. The company provides software-as-a-service, and provides technical management support, including IT service management, to the IT operations of large corporations, such as help desk functionality. The company’s core business focuses on management of “incident, problem, and change” IT operations.The fee model entails a cost per user per month. 

ServiceNow became a publicly traded company after its $210 million IPO orchestrated by Morgan Stanley. The company moved its headquarters to Santa Clara, and went on a shopping spree. ServiceNow acquired software developers, cloud management software startups, cybersecurity companies, machine learning at artificial intelligence startups, design firms, SaaS, language processing, analytics startups, . The names include Mirror42, Neebula Systems, Intréis, iTapp, Brightport Security, DxContinuum, Qlue, Telepathy, SkyGiraffe. VendorHawk, Parlo, FriendlyData. 

Of particular interest, ServiceNow acquired Fairchild Resiliency Systems in November 2019, a 13 person company specializing in business continuity and disaster recovery. Fairchild Resiliency Systems was owner of the MaestroRS app in the ServiceNow app store. ServiceNow acquired in January 2020 Loom Systems and Passage AI. 

Box, Inc. (NYSE: BOX))   – This business-facing cloud content management and file sharing service is based in Redwood City, California, and offers tools for working with files that are uploaded to its servers. Users can determine how their content can be shared with other users, with the option to invite others to view and/edit an account’s shared files, upload documents and photos to a shared files folder (and thus share those documents outside Box), giving other users rights to view shared files. 

Box’s enterprise clients have included IBM, GE, Schneider Electric, and Procter & Gamble. The company’s product, OpenBox 2, allows developers to create services that interact with files on both Box.com and competing web-based applications and services via an XML-based API. 

Box, Inc.  announced that the U.S. The Department of Agriculture, Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) selected Box to power the organization’s secure remote work initiatives and help digitize operations within 2,500 farm service centers across the country. Approximately 35 hedge funds hold Box in their portfolio. 

Okta, Inc. –  This publicly traded identity and access management company, which is based in San Francisco, provides cloud software that helps companies manage and secure user authentication into modern applications. It also helps developers build identity controls into applications, website web services, and devices. The company was founded in 2009 and went public in 2017 with a more than $6 billion valuation. Okta primarily focuses on enterprises businesses, with JetBlue, Nordstrom, MGM Resorts International, and the U.S. Department of Justice. 

In April, the company announced it had done away with passwords thanks to a new feature rolled into its cloud platform. Okta FastPass uses built-in security of connected. Devices to do away with the need to enter passwords.

“We integrated across every single platform: Windows, Mac OS, Android and IoS,” said Joe Diamond, vice president of product marketing at Okta. “Once you go through the authentication process on Windows 10, for example, you’re automatically authenticated into Okta as well. That eliminates the need for passwords for every single application.”

With working from home as the new normal, enterprises will be looking for those services provided by Okta.

LogMeIn, Inc. provides software as a service and cloud-based remote connectivity services for the purposes of collaboration, IT management, and customer engagement. The company, which was founded in 2003 and based in Boston, Massachusetts, creates a suite of products that give users and administrators access to remote computers. 

LogMeIn’s revenue comes from the provision of various cloud-based productivity and business software solutions for small, medium, and large companies, as well as individuals, and primarily from subscription fees paid by clients on an annual basis. Perhaps, the company’s best known business is LastPass, a cloud-based password manager. 

The firm also has a product called GoToMeeting, a teleconferencing app with Microsoft Teams integration, and possible competitor to Zoom and Slack.

Francisco Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation, the private equity affiliate of $40 billion hedge fund Elliott Management Corporation, acquired LogMeIn for $4.3 billion at $86.05 per share in an all-cash deal.

Cash flow from its 2019 operations was $74.5 million.

Payments 

Square, Inc. (NYSE: SQ) – This financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment markets software and hardware payments products with recent expansion into small business services. The company was founded in 2009 by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Jim McKelvey, and is based in San Francisco. Stripe launched its first app and service in 2010, and has been a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange since November 2015. 

Square’s product Cash App enables person-to-person money transfer via the app or website. Square Cash for business, which was introduced in 2015, allows individuals, organizations, and business owners to use a unique username ($cashtag) to send and receive money. The app began supporting Bitcoin trading in January 2018. Users receive a debit card, which can be used with their Cash App account. Since 2012, Square has allowed merchants to issue virtual gift cards using QR code technology, and added physical gift cards in 2014. 

Square launched in 2014 Square Capital, which provides business financing to Square merchants. The company added in 2014 an online booking tool to the firm’s product line, so that businesses (other than restaurants) could accept appointments on their website. 

The firm launched in 2015 Square payroll, a tool for small business owners to process payroll for their employees. The product, available in the U.S., handles business withholdings, payroll payments, and tax filings. Square empowered merchants in 2018 to develop custom interfaces for the platform via its API. Square is approved to distribute loans via the PPP lending program per the coronavirus stimulus bill.

PayPal Holdings, Inc. (PYPL) – This American company supports online money transfers and serves as an electronic alternative to traditional paper methods, such as check and money orders.  The company, which operates as a payment process for online vendors, auction sites (eBay), and many other commercial users, charges a fee in exchange for benefits such as one-click transactions and password memory. 

Shortly after PayPal’s 2002 initial public offering, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of eBay, but split from eBay in 2015. The company was ranked 204th on the 2019 Fortune 500 of largest U.S. corporate by revenue. 

In the massive stimulus bill to combat the coronavirus crisis, PayPal is approved to make PPP loans. 

Paycom Software, Inc. – An American online payroll and human resource technology provider, the Oklahoma based Paycom is one of the first fully online payroll providers. 

Fortune magazine recognized it in 2019 as one of the fastest-growing publicly traded companies globally.

Forbes’ magazine ranked it one of the top five fastest-growing publicly traded technology companies in its FastTech rankings. In 2019, Paycom reported annual revenue of $737.7 million for 2019, an increase over 2018’s $566.3 million. 93% of Paycom’s clients are based in the U.S.

Teleconferencing: 

Teladoc Health -This multinational telemedicine and virtual healthcare company, which is based in the United States, provide telehealth, medical opinions, AI and analytics, and licensable platform services. 

Its telephone and video-conferencing software, as well as mobile apps to provide on-demand remote medical care. The company has acquired BetterHelp in 2015, Best Doctors in 2017, and Advance Medical in 2018. Its market capitalization as of 2018 is $11.25 billion.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Paycom experienced what it called extreme growth pains after it missed some payments to certain doctors amid a lot of growth. Since early March, Teladoc reports more than 20,000 appointments per day.’’

Zoom: The stock of Zoom, a remote conferencing services company, has doubled since the start of the year. It combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, Zoom usage increased 67% from the start of the year to mid-March as schools and companies used the platform for work-at-home arrangements. 

News outlets reported that thousands of educational institutions adopted Zoom for online classes. In one day on March 2020, the Zoom app was downloaded 343,000 times. 18% of those downloads happened in the United States.People also used Zoom for social purposes. Reports of “Zoom Blind Dates,” and “Zoom Recess” showed its sudden surge of popularity. 

On April 24, Zoom reached an all-time high in stock price, despite concerns about the platform’s security. 

RingCentral (NYSE: RNG) – 

Food

Dominos (NYSE: DPZ) – Domino’s has more than 15,000 locations in more than 85 countries. 5,750 of those stores are located in the U.S. Even before The Great Lockdown, 60% of Domino’s orders were made online. 

Domino’s added in 2018 Hotspots, a program to allow drivers to delivery to locations other than the home and office; particularly, outside locations.

 It worked with 800 franchises and their thousands of delivery drivers to incorporate geo-fencing into its digital order process, allowing it to bring pizza to more than 200,000 outdoor locations such as parks and benches sans the need for a street address. Domino’s then added Dinner Bell to its Pizza Tracker App, allowing people to create groups within the app with friends and family to their Pizza Tracker, alerting the group about a pizza’s delivery.Domino’s also offers zero-click ordering through its AnyWare feature. 

Preload an order in the app, and open it whenever you want that order to be delivered.  The company’s cloud-based AnyWare ordering allows ordering via TV (Samsung’s SmartTV) game console (PlayStation4), card (Ford’s Sync service) or via Amazon Echo. Domino’s has also introduced a fleet of electric delivery vehicles with curbside ovens so as to ensure freshness, including a sleek delivery tracker.  In non-U.S. markets, franchisees are experimenting with drone delivery, novel foods, and a real-time GPS-enabled driver tracker. 

GrubHub Inc (NYSE: GRUB) – As an American online and mobile prepared food ordering and delivery marketplace, GrubHub connects diners with local takeout restaurants. By 2019, the company had 19.9 million active users and 115,000 associated restaurants across 3,200 cities and all 50 states of the United States.

Grubhub’s brands include Seamless, AllMenus, MenuPages, LevelUp, and Tapingo. In 2011, Grubhub secured $50 million in Series E funding.

GrubHub acquired Restaurants on the Run and Delivered Dish in 2015. 

The company acquired LAbite, a Los Angeles-based restaurant delivery service in May 2016. 

By 2018, GrubHub had completed its acquisition of OrderUp in 2018. 

LevelUp, a diner engagement and payment solution platform, sold to Grubhub that same year. Grubhub delivers across the U.S. 

Dollar General (NYSE: DG) – Dollar General is an American chain of variety stores headquartered in the Goodlettsville, Tennessee. As of July 2018, Dollar General operated 15,000 stores across the continental United States. The company went public in 1968 on the NYSE. Dollar General is one of the most profitable stores in the rural United States with revenue at around $21 billion in 2017.

Dollar General is seen as filling a need in cash-strapped communities, and has been accused of “capitalizing on a series of powerful economic and social forces—white flight, the recent recession, the so-called “retail apocalypse”––which have caused gaps in food access. Studies have suggested that Dollar General is less affordable than big box retailers Walmart and Costco. Dollar General says it’s looking to add 50,000 employees by the end of April.

Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB) – The American processed food and snack company is most known for its canned soup products, whose design has become an American icon due to its use in pop art by Andy Warhol. But, mergers and acquisitions have grown to become among the largest processed food companies in the U.S.. The New Jersey-based compay’s brands include the Pepperidge Farm, Snyder’s of Hanover, V8, and Swanson. Campbell’s produces its soups and broths, as well as SpaghettiOs, baked goods such as cookies and crackers, beverages, and salty snacks such as pretzels and potato chips. 

Campbell is “acknowledged as a way to weather a recession,” wrote Edgar Roesch, a Soleil Securities Corp. analyst in New York during the 2008 financial crisis.

Among the leading sales increases for the week ending March 22 included canned and ready-to-serve soup (+369%), powdered milk (+368%), dry hearty soup (+363%), dried beans/grains (+297%), packaged dry dinner mix (+277%), and condensed soup (+272%). Campbell sells a variation of these products.

Nearly all respondents to a Shopkick survey experienced out-of-stock items, including canned goods (54%). “Our plants are operating 24/7 right now, which is fairly unusual for April, to be honest,” said Beth Jolly, vice-president of communications at the company’s meal and beverages division, which includes Campbell Canada. “It’s really just been a dramatic shift to a full-out production increase.”

Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) – This American multinational corporation operates a chain of membership-only warehouse clubs. Costco was the second largest retailer in the world after WalMart as of 2015. One year later, Costco was the world’s leading retailer of choice and prime beef, organic foods, rotisserie chicken, and wine. Fortune 500 rankings place Costco at #14 of largest United States corporations by total revenue. 

Immense earnings stability provided by the company’s annual membership model. Strong customer loyalty enables pricing power and renewal traction into the foreseeable future. ➢ International expansion and China in particular should support margins and require only modest capital outlays, though membership model may play less of a role. ➢ The advent of e-commerce platforms are more of an opportunity than a threat as the expanded distribution channels and consolidation of market share towards larger players offsets the disruption potential from new entrants such as Amazon.

Costco sells merchandise across 6 main categories: • Foods (dry, packaged, groceries) • Sundries (snacks, beverages, cleaning supplies) • Hardlines (appliances, electronics, health, etc.) • Fresh Foods (meat, produce, deli, bakery) • Softlines (apparel, small appliances) • Ancillary (gas stations, pharmacy)

Costco has already had limited success in China. Domestic retail giants have had mixed results in China as they fail to embrace Chinese shopping habits. Costco has already had successful pilot operations in the country, though. In 2014, Costco opened up an online store on TMall Global. Sales greatly exceeded expectations. Costco even set a Guiness World Record for tons of nuts shipped in a day in 2015. As of this year, Costco has expanded its partnership and opened an online presence on the domestic version of TMall. Furthermore, Costco has announced plans to build a brick and mortar store in Shanghai.

Target – As the eighth-largest retailer in the United States, the American retail corporation Target Corporation is a leading cheap-chic player with 1,844 stores across the United States. It is ranked number 30 on 2018 Fortune 500 list of largest United States corporations by total revenue. Target is known for its emphasis on “the needs of its younger, image-conscious shoppers.” Walmart, on the other hand, relies on its strategy of “always low prices.” Unlike Walmart, Target’s grocery selection does not come from its own distribution centers, but, rather, companies with whom Target has partnered. 

The Kroger Company – Kroger is the United States’ largest supermarket by revenue ($121.16 billion or fiscal year 2019). It is also the second-largest general retailer behind Walmart. Kroger is the fifth-largest retailer in the world and the fourth largest American-owned private employer in the United States. Kroger is ranked #20 on the Fortune 500 rankings of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. 

Education

PluralSight – As an American publicly held online education company based in Utah, Pluralsight provides a full enterprise platform, video training courses for software developers, IT administrators, and creative professionals through its website. In July 2018, it had 1,400 subject-matter experts as authors and more than 6,500 courses in its catalog. Since 2013, the company has acquired e-learning and education companies to bolster itss technology, course offerings, and executive leadership. 

For instance, PluralSight acquired in 2013 PeepCode, a provider of open source training to developers, adding 100 new courses in its Open Source course catalog. That same year, it purchased Tekpub, which produced screencasts on new development technologies. Other acquisitions include Digital-Tutors and Smarterer in 2014, and Code School and HackHands in 2015, and Adobe focused Train Simple in 2016, as well as GitPrime, a developer productivity tool, in 2019. 

Entertainment: 

Netflix (NFLX) – The California-based service provider and production company was founded in 1997. The company today provides a subscription-based streaming service of a library of films and television programs, including in-house productions. Netflix, which is a member of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), had more than 148 million paid subscriptions globally, with 60 million in the United States.

Netflix began in 2010 offering streaming media, and expanded internationally that same year. Over the years, Netflix has become more aggressive as a producer and distributor of film and television series in the form of “Netflix Original” content, and today has an estimated 126 original series and films. 

The company’s pursuit of content production, rights for additional content, and entering into 190 markets has resulted in billions of debt. By September 2017, Netflix sat on $21.9 billion in debt, and, in October 2018, the company announced plans to raise yet another $2 billion in debt for new content. By March 2020, Netflix had nearly 3,000 film titles for streaming on its U.S. service, not including multi-episode titles. 

Spotify – Founded in 2006, Spotify provides a library of DRM-restricted music, videos, and podcasts through its audio streaming platform. The freemium version of Spotify offers music streaming with advertisements or automatic music videos. Additional features include offline listening and commercial-free listening with paid subscriptions. Spotify has been aggressive on the acquisition front. In March 2014, Spotify acquired The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company with “in depth musical understanding and tools for curation to drive music discovery for millions of users around the globe.” 

Spotify acquired in June 2015 Seed Scientific, a data science consulting firm and analytics company that would spearhead the company’s Advanced Analytics unit focused on developing data services. Spotify acquired in April 2016 CrowdAlbum, which “collects photos and videos of performances shared on social networks” to “enhance the development of products that help artists understand, activate, and monetize their audiences.” 

Spotify acquired in March 2017 Sonalytic, an audio detection startup, to improve the company’s personalized playlists, better match songs with compositions, and improve the company’s publishing data system. Spotify acquired in 2017 Mediachain, a blockchain startup developing a decentralized database system for managing attribution and other metadata for media. That same year, Spotify acquired artificial intelligence startup Niland, using technology to improve its personification and recommendation features for users. 

Spotify acquired SoundTrap in 2017, an online music studio startup. In 2018, Spotify acquired music licensing platform Loudr, and in 2019 the podcast networks Gimlet Media, Anchor FM, and Parcast. Spotify acquired in 2019, a music production marketplace for people in the music industry to collaborate on projects, and distribute music tracks for licensing. 

Transportation: 

Uber Technologies (UBER) –  The American multinational ride-hailing company based in San Francisco provides services such as peer-to-peer ridesharing, ride service hailing, food delivery (Uber Eats), and micro-mobility services with a network of electric bikes and scooters. 

Uber, which is estimated to have 110 million worldwide users, operates in California as a public utility under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates public utilities within its jurisdiction by setting rates for transportation services provided by Uber’s network of “partner drivers.” The company enjoyed a 67% market share for ride-sharing in early 2019, and a 24% market share for food delivery in 2018. Uber’s prominence in the sharing economy has led to the concept of uberization. Many startups describe their products as “Uber for [insert blank here]. 

In 2015, the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that Uber accounted for $6.8 billion in consumer surplus. 

Gaming

Activision Blizzard (ATVI) – This American video game holding company based in Santa Monica, California was founded in July 2008 via a merger between Activision Inc. and Vivendi games. Activision Blizzard comprises five business units: Activision Publishing, Blizzard Entertainment, King, Major League Gaming, and Activision Blizzard Studios. 

Electronic Arts (EA) – Headquartered in Redwood City, California, EA s the second-largest gaming company in the Americas and Europe by revenue, with a market capitalization after Activision Blizzard. EA’s subscription video game service, EA Access, is available on Microsoft’s XBox One and Sony’s Playstation 4 consoles, as well as on the PC on Origin EA’s subscription service for PC, Origin Access. Project Atlas, EA’s game streaming service, 

Zynga –  As a San Francisco social game developer with social video game services founded in April 2007 , the company’s focus is mobile and social networking platforms. Zynga’s mission is “connecting the world through games.” Zynga’s best known game is FarmVille, which was released on Facebook in June 2009, reaching 10 million daily active users (DAU) within six weeks. 

Zynga is building a blockchain-based infrastructure, Gala Network, so that developers can design new games and allow players to possess their in-game content–taking items from one game to another. 

“It’s going to be a revolutionary experience for people, ”Eric Schiermeyer, co-founder of Zynga, speaking to VentureBeat. “Unlike any other experience I’ve ever seen, when you spend money here, you actually get something, something that you can keep, and maybe even give away or give some to somebody else. You can’t do that in traditional free-to-play games right now.”

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