Business Insurance

The Biggest Share Price Winners and Losers During COVID-19

It's probably fair to say the last 12 months have been unique for everyone. While many companies struggled during tricky economic conditions and caution from investors, some were able to flourish and benefit from some of the ways COVID-19 changed the landscape of the world. We've put together research on the 10 biggest winners and losers since the onset of the pandemic.

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One year on from Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the first of the UK’s stay-at-home orders, it’s probably fair to say that some companies have fared better than others.

Many industries struggled as international travel came to a standstill, while others were able to capitalise on customers spending a majority of their time at home, whether they were adjusting to a new way of working, learning digitally or just looking for something to help cure the boredom many of us felt. Here’s a rundown of the companies who were the biggest winners and losers during a year unlike any other in recent history.

Biggest Winners

chart showing the best performing stocks since the onset of covid-19
The stocks that performed the best during the COVID-19 pandemic
CompanyShare Price 14 February 2020Share Price 17 March 2021% Increase
Freeport McMoRan$12.24$36.11+195.02%
S&P 5003,3803,947+16.78%

Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) (+338.60%)

Since going public in 2010, Tesla is up 20,000%. In recent years, it has continued to outpace the growth, profit and delivery estimates of even the most ambitious of Wall Street’s analysts. In 2020, they managed to produce over 500,000 vehicles in a year for the first time ever and finished off their sixth consecutive profitable quarter. As the automotive market continues to shift towards battery-powered solutions, it’s not hard to see why investors have been optimistic about the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer.

Zoom (NYSE: ZM) (+270.15%)

It isn’t hard to wrap your head around why Zoom has done so well in the past year. The world moved away from face-to-face work, education and social communications and further into the virtual world. Businesses shifted to remote and home-based working, teachers and students educated at home and family members needed a simple way to stay in touch—Zoom offered a solution to each. For 2020, revenues were $622.7 million, up 88% over 2019, and as people wonder what the new ‘normal’ will look like it’s difficult to imagine Zoom not playing a major role.

Snapchat (NASDAQ: SNAP) (+264.18%)

2020 was a great year for Snapchat. Their Q3 earnings of $679 million were well over $100 million dollars north of Wall Street’s expectations, and as they continue to grow both their user base (up 18% year on year) and the number of businesses advertising through the app it isn’t difficult to see the potential. As advertisers shift away from more traditional methods, marketing through popular social media applications has continued to grow. Combine that with COVID-19 keeping people at home (and increasing their daily screen time) and Snap had a formula for successful growth.

Pinterest (NYSE: PINS) (+222.78%)

Pinterest added over 100 million new active monthly users during 2020. Average revenues per user were up too, from $0.95 in 2019, to $1.03 in Q3 2020 before skyrocketing to $1.57 in Q4—driven by a feature they call catalogue integration. This allows businesses to advertise a product through a photo or video and link (via a pin) to the product’s store directly. Pinterest managed to avoid challenging political controversies that surrounded semi-competitors Facebook and Twitter, establishing itself as a ‘getaway’ from fake news and political ads during a busy election year.

CrowdStrike (NASDAQ: CRWD) (+220.79%)

Crowdstrike is a cybersecurity business that protects companies from data theft. As COVID-19 forced everyone to go digital, businesses, schools and other enterprises needed to protect their data in a way that allowed their staff, students and customers to continue to operate as usual - that’s where CrowdStrike came in. For the year of 2020, they reported 82% year on year growth in customer base, and investors continue to be positive as they look to grow both organically and through acquisition, purchasing Preempt Security and announcing their takeover of Humio.

Twilio (NYSE: TWLO) (+202.39%)

Twilio helps companies to more effectively engage with their customers through machine learning and cloud computing. It might help you communicate directly to your Airbnb host, or let your Lyft driver know where to pick you up. As the markets for rentals and car shares plummeted during the pandemic, Twilio was able to successfully pivot its offering and diversified its customer base impressively, announcing 55% year-on-year growth in February 2021.

Square (NYSE: SQ) (+201.09%)

Square is a digital payments company that enjoyed an incredible 253% share price increase over the course of 2020. Allowing people to transfer money without requiring any physical contact or presence, Square also benefited from a near 10% increase in the number of sellers who were ‘cashless’ (95%+ sales without cash) over the course of the pandemic. As businesses continue to pivot away from cash transactions, and people seek easier/quicker ways of transferring and receiving money from their friends and family, investors in Square continue to have optimism.

Freeport McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) (+195.02%)

Freeport McMoRan is a US-based mining company specialising in copper, gold and molybdenum (a key component of steel and alloys). Much of Freeport’s success can be attributed to fluctuations in global commodity prices. Between March 2020 and January 2021 copper prices increased from $2.10/pound to $3.70/pound and gold prices improved from $1,500/ounce to $1,950/ounce between January and September (but remain extremely volatile).

Roku (NASDAQ: ROKU) (+183.08%)

Roku offers its customers access to a wide variety of streaming content through their TV’s. Competing with the likes of Amazon’s Fire Stick, Roku has continued to grow its market share in the booming online streaming space, closing out the year at ~5% of global market share. Customers seeking more bang for their buck (and spending more time at home during months-long restrictions and lockdowns) found Roku an excellent alternative to expensive TV licenses or traditional cable box subscriptions.

ViacomCBS (NASDAQ: VIAC) (+163.98%)

US television companies Viacom and CBS merged in 2019, and their assets include the likes of CBS News/Sports, MTV, Paramount and Nickelodeon. In September 2020, they announced (and in February 2021 launched) their Paramount+ streaming service, giving people access to over 30,000 shows, offering investors and analysts plenty of reason to feel good about the stock - the announcement of streaming services (such as Disney+) have often created strong opportunities for growth and resulted in ViacomCBS’s share price increasing by 160% between March and October 2020.

Biggest Losers

chart showing the worst performing stocks since the onset of covid-19
The stocks that suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic
CompanyShare Price 14 February 2020Share Price 17 March 2021% Increase
Norwegian Cruise Line€52.46€30.50-41.86%
Carnival Corp$42.11$28.93-31.30%
Societe Generale€31.73€21.96-30.79%
S&P 5003,3803,947+16.78%

Wirecard (FRA: WDI) (-99.73%)

German payments provider Wirecard collapsed in June after it was revealed the company had a black hole of roughly €1.7bn in its accounts - which it later admitted was cash that probably ‘didn’t exist’. Criminal charges were issued against the CEO and COO, which could probably be described as less than ideal publicity. It’s unlikely that Wirecard continues trading on the stock market for more than a few months, and even the most optimistic of Wall Street analysts don’t believe the business will ever recover.

Intl Consolidated Airlines Group (LON: IAG) (-66.20%)

IAG owns the likes of British Airways, Iberia and Vueling. In February 2021, they announced they had lost roughly €7bn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the limits on international travel the virus created. Even while running during 2020, most flights were limited to 20% capacity, and many employees were furloughed or made redundant. As the world reopens, it could take a few years to rebound to the travel volumes of 2018/19.

Norwegian Cruise Line (NYSE: NCLH) (-41.86%)

As with Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line was forced to keep its 17-strong fleet out of service for most of 2020. It faced a liquidity crisis in May over “substantial doubt” over their ability to continue operating over the next 12 months but were quickly able to secure enough liquidity to cover an additional 18 months of zero revenues from a number of different investment sources. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention still doesn’t expect cruises to restart before June 2021.

Carnival (NYSE: CUK) (-39.10%)

Another business hit hard by restrictions on global travel, the world’s largest cruise line (by passengers) has had to keep most of its fleet of over 20 ships in dry dock for the majority of the last year. They recently announced that U.S. operations will not resume until (at earliest) June 2021, but as vaccine rates improve in the U.S. (and people are desperate for an escape from the towns and cities they’ve been restricted to for months) Carnival should benefit.

Grifols (BME: GRF) (-32.75%)

Grifols is a Spanish developer and manufacturer of plasma-derived medicines globally. They had an up and down last 12 months, peaking over $21 per share in May 2020 before a fall to $15 in September, back up to ~$20 in January 2021 and then down to $15 in March— truly a volatile stock. Unlike many of the other shares on this list, Grifols wasn’t hit too badly by Covid-19 (net profits were even up 14.7%) and many Wall Street analysts give the stock a ‘buy’ rating.

Unicredit (BIT: UCG) (-31.82%)

Italy’s second-largest bank had a tumultuous 2020. Pre-COVID, it traded around €14 per share. As cautious investors left the market during February, March and April, it plummeted to a low of €6.21 in May. It has recovered somewhat, now over €9 per share, but there remain a huge number of question marks, as CEO Jean Pierre Mustier departed last month and they try to negotiate (with pressure from the Italian government) a favourable deal to acquire Italian state-owned lender Monte dei Paschi di Siene (€1.7bn loss in 2020).

Carnival Corp (NYSE: CCL) (-31.30%)

The largest travel leisure company in the world, with a combined fleet size of over 100 ships across brands like Carnival, P&O and Costa Cruises, Carnival Corp suffered due to the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. They expect to restart operations in the coming months, likely with capacity restrictions initially. A big question is when Carnival will return to pre-Covid levels.

Viatris (NASDAQ: VTRS) (-31.14%)

Viatris was formed in late 2020 when drug manufacturer Mylan merged with Upjohn (a Pfizer manufacturing business). Amongst other issues, it was also a victim of investors selling during February of 2020, with share prices dropping from over $22 to under $14 in the space of a month and a half. On top of that, it also has over $12bn in debt, and in December announced it would be closing/divesting 15 of its manufacturing facilities across the globe—leaving up to 20% of its total workforce at risk. But over time, the benefits of the merger should start to show - they’re expecting over $1bn in cost synergies by 2024.

Societe Generale (EPA: GLE) (-30.79%)

French multinational investment bank and financial services business Societe Generale (SocGen) saw its share price fall from over €30 to under €13 between February and April, as investors sought to liquidate their assets during uncertain economic conditions caused by Covid-19. SocGen is also in the middle of an internal rebuild, attempting to improve long-term profitability, which contributed towards a net loss of €258mn (compared to a net profit of €3.25bn the year before). Investors are looking for earnings to rebound during 2021 as the world reopens and their transformation project progresses.

Telefonica (BME: TEF) (-26.95%)

Another casualty of investors cashing in their shares during the onset of the pandemic, Telefonica shares fell from over €6 per share in February to under €3 in November. While it’s fair to say Telefonica shares are slowly returning to stronger levels, it remains under considerable pressure as a result of its enormous debt, which was around €45bn in mid-2020. While selling off assets such as smaller subsidiaries and tower networks is viewed as a step in the right direction towards their goal of greater debt reduction, it seems investors are still wary of Telefonica.

Share prices were taken from the 14th February 2020, and then compared with mid-month figures (15th of the month or the week commencing at the closest date to the 15th) to see how the stock had changed compared to its price on the 14th. Final prices were taken from 17th March 2021.

Luke Masters

Prior to NimbleFins, Luke studied economics at Brunel University and worked at FreshMinds, Investigo and BMW. His work in data analytics, pricing, strategy and business development helped him write business insurance content to support SMEs at NimbleFins. He now works at DataPOWA, a sports & entertainment data analytics company. Read more on LinkedIn.