Talk about a roller coaster ride.
Zoom, the video conferencing company that became everyone's primary means of communication around work during the pandemic, will no longer be acquiring Five9, a maker of cloud-based customer service software. Though the all-stock deal, announced in July, was expected to enable Zoom to tap into the lucrative contact center market, a few major hiccups along the way seemingly led to today's decision.
First, Zoom's shares, which moved in nearly a straight line toward the sky over the last couple of years, have more recently come under pressure, so the deal for Five9, which was valued at $14.7 billion in July, would have been considerably less today. (On the day that the deal was announced, Zoom's shares were trading at around $360 each; they're now trading at closer to $260 per share.)
It certainly didn't help matters when Zoom last week disclosed that a U.S. Justice Department-led panel has been investigating the tie-up over concerns that it might create national security risks given Zoom's ties to China.
Founder Eric Yuan is a naturalized American citizen who was born in China and moved to the U.S. as a 27-year-old in 1997. (Several years ago, we talked with Yuan about overcoming numerous hurdles to do this.)
Zoom also said last year that it had mistakenly routed some meetings through servers in China and that it shut down the account of an activist who was using the platform to commemorate China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown. Afterward, the company, which has said previously that a sizable part of its development team is in China (as is the case with many multinational companies), announced it would not permit requests from the Chinese government to impact anyone outside of mainland China.
Still, the figurative nail in the coffin might have been a recommendation two weeks ago by the proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Service that Five9 shareholders vote against the acquisition over concerns about Zoom's slowing growth.
That advice appears to have been heeded, with Five9 today issuing a news release that the merger plan had been “terminated by mutual agreement” between the two companies.
Zoom separately released an announcement of its own, downplaying the entire episode. Titled "Zoom: What's Next," Yuan writes of Five9 that it "presented an attractive means to bring to our customers an integrated contact center offering. That said," he adds, "it was in no way foundational to the success of our platform nor was it the only way for us to offer our customers a compelling contact center solution."
Either way, the development was expected evidently. As news emerged that the acquisition had been called off, the share prices of both Zoom and Five9 barely budged.