Read our latest news and views and get to know us better
Fortunes were lost and made on global stock markets in 2020. Uncertainty about the impact of the new coronavirus initially led to a sharp sell-off in the first few months of the year, wiping billions of dollars off the value of some of the world’s most valuable companies.
But the new normal of lockdowns, social distancing and travel restrictions also created opportunities. Many of the trends that had slowly been taking hold for a decade accelerated suddenly and very quickly became widely accepted. Videoconferencing has become as commonplace as an office vending machine, and streaming services are now almost essential for education and entertainment. Online shopping also got a shot in the arm. Technology companies had been quietly working on solutions long before we were aware that 2020 would pose so many problems. And investors who backed the right companies were rewarded handsomely.
Here are five exciting stocks you could have invested in last year:
Founder Tobi Lütke started his business in 2004 as Snowdevil. Canada has plenty of snow and Lütke’s goal was to sell as many snowboards as he could through an online store. For that, the business needed a functional, pleasant-looking online shopfront. You know, a place where you could do digital window-shopping before clicking the “buy” button. But Lütke quickly became frustrated with the poor quality of what was available, so he and his team built their own digital shopfront. It soon became clear that Snowdevil was not the only business in need of a proper online store presence. As a result, Shopify was born, and became a platform for other businesses to create their own shopfronts. When the company was listed in New York in 2015, it was valued at $1.3 billion. But with consumers increasingly looking to satisfy their shopping needs online, and even more so in 2020, hundreds of thousands of bricks-and-mortar stores were forced to set up shop on the internet – and that meant big business for Shopify. Already valued at more than $50 billion at the start of last year, Shopify’s share price rallied by more than 170% in 2020.
In 1994, Jeff Bezos quit a good job he had at an investment firm in New York to start an online book store. He was excited by the idea of giving consumers access to millions of titles all at once and convinced his parents to invest a large portion of their life savings in his business. This was at a time when many potential investors still asked “What is the internet?” he recalls. Now, 26 years later, Amazon is much more than a bookshop – it’s America’s largest online retailer, shipping more than 10 billion items per year. It also provides a host of web services such as cloud hosting and runs the Amazon Prime streaming platform. Bezos spent 2020 as the world’s richest person thanks to a rise of more than 60% in the company’s share price.
Amazon’s Bezos has just been unseated as the world’s richest man by Elon Musk. The South African-born serial entrepreneur had a roaring year – and his company even more so. The electric car manufacturer and clean energy company’s stock jumped more than 700% since the start of 2020. As a result, it made the company worth more than all the other American carmakers combined. Rivals General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota still make a lot more cars than Tesla does, though.
Not to be confused with Shopify. This one is the music streaming service. And just like Abba and Roxette, Spotify hails from Sweden. Though only launched in South Africa in 2018, Spotify has been going in Europe since 2008 and has built up a library of more than 60 million tracks and 1.9 million podcast titles since. Founded by former uTorrent CEO Daniel Ek and technology investor Martin Lorentzon, the streaming service saw steady user growth in 2020, despite worries that lockdowns – and less of a commute – would lead listeners to shy away from the service. Premium subscribers rose to 144 million by late 2020 and monthly active users to more than 300 million. The business seemed lucrative enough for Apple to push in with its own streaming service, but Spotify is still the market leader. Since its inception, it has paid more than 19 billion euros to the right holders of the content it streams – transforming an industry that was being picked apart by pirated material. Shares in Spotify sang in 2020, rising more than 120%.
It is tough to imagine a more blue chip stock than Apple. The technology giant, under former CEO Steve Jobs, put more computing power in the palm of a regular consumer’s hand than space agency NASA had at its disposal to put the first man on the moon. And on the back of iPhone sales, Apple overtook long-established fossil fuel giants to become the largest company in the US. For more than a decade, smartphone sales dwarfed all Apple’s other business segments. But over the past few years, the company has been diversifying its revenue, hoping to rake in more through subscription services. By 2020, the move was bearing fruit. Signing up subscribers in everything from cloud computing to software and content streaming services, Apple earned billions from the more than 500 million users across its platforms. And with consumers trapped in their homes for a large part of the year, the sales of digital products rose more than expected. Apple’s share price was nearly 80% higher at the start of 2021 than a year earlier.
Soon you will be able to invest directly in the stocks of all these companies – and more than a hundred others – with Shyft, the app for global citizens, powered by Standard Bank. Visit getshyft.co.za to download it now.