Asana CEO and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz
PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA | AFP | Getty Images
Dustin Moskovitz is buying the dip. Again.
The billionaire co-founder and CEO of cloud software vendor Asana bought $81 million worth of the company’s stock this week as part of a pre-arranged trading plan, bringing his purchases for the month to over $195 million, according to SEC filings.
The transactions follow a plunge in the value of Asana, which had been the highest of tech flyers this year prior to a broad selloff in high-multiple software and internet stocks. Since hitting a record high of $145.79 on Nov. 15, Asana has lost half its value, while the S&P 500 is down about 1% over that stretch.
Moskovitz, who co-founded Facebook with Harvard then-roommate Mark Zuckerberg, now controls about 43% of the company’s Class A and Class B combined shares, up from 36% before the company’s New York Stock Exchange debut in September 2020.
Moskovitz’s aggressive buying stands in contrast to the recent selling by Zuckerberg, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who in recent months have offloaded considerable stakes in the companies they run.
Asana, whose software helps marketing, operations and sales teams manage projects and collaborate remotely on campaigns, has had a wild ride in 2021. At its peak, the stock was about five times higher than where it closed in 2020, far outpacing all other U.S. tech stocks.
Investors were jumping on a growth story. Year-over-year revenue expansion reached 72% in the second quarter and remained at a robust 70% in the third, when quarterly sales topped $100 million for the first time.
While the stock is now trading at half its price from about a month ago, Asana is still up 148% this year, beating every other stock in the 58-member WisdomTree Cloud Computing Fund.
Continuing their roller-coaster ride in 2021, the shares bounced backed this week, climbing over 7% on Wednesday and almost 9% on Friday.
“There’s a very obvious answer, which is Dustin has been buying up shares,” said Rishi Jaluria, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets who recommends holding the stock. “That’s the big one. That is what’s propping this thing up.”
Asana declined to make Moskovitz available for an interview.
Like other high-growth cloud companies, Asana is still far from generating cash and is racking up losses. Analysts expect its adjusted net loss to widen to 99 cents per share in the next fiscal year from 96 cents per share in the current fiscal year, according to Refinitiv.
With inflation on the rise and the Federal Reserve gearing up to start raising interest rates, investors have been rotating out of money-losing cloud software and tech names and into sectors deemed safer in a volatile economic environment. Utilities and consumer staples have been the leading gainers in the S&P 500 over the past month.
Asana faces specific challenges as well. Even though its net retention rate has accelerated this year, the company is struggling to get more revenue from existing customers, with billings growth slowing, Jaluria said. Tim Wan, Asana’s finance chief, has tried to assure investors, telling them on the latest earnings call that billings “isn’t the best indicator for how we grow our business over time” as just one-third of Asana’s customer base is billed monthly.
Competition remains stout. Asana’s largest customer is Amazon, Jaluria said. Amazon was evaluating rival Smartsheet for use inside the company, the Information reported in November, citing an unnamed person.
“How does that grand vision play out if Asana’s largest customer is using different solutions in different departments?” said Jaluria.
A Smartsheet representative declined to comment, and Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Moskovitz, for his part, isn’t deterred, at least when you look at his buying patterns. He’s bought at prices ranging from about $37 to $100, whether the stock is going up or down, filings show. His most recent purchase was at about $69.
Through his active buying, Asana has jumped to about 33% of Moskovitz’s public portfolio, knocking Facebook down to 67% from 83% over the past year, according to FactSet.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a signal,” Jaluria said. “I think it’s legitimately Dustin wants to get up to a certain level of ownership, and there’s no price discrimination.”
Jaluria said that just because Moskovitz is bullish on the prospects of his own company, other investors shouldn’t necessarily follow his lead.
“What I get asked by investors all the time is, ‘What is the endgame here?'” Jaluria said. “Obviously he’s not trying to completely take this company private, because they would just have not gone public in the first place. So it can’t be that.”
Whatever his motive, Moskovitz has a cushion to help him absorb the volatility. His net worth is $21 billion.
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