Sea’s Cofounders Lose $1.7 Billion Overnight As Tech Giant’s Earnings Disappoint

Sea Ltd. The Singapore-based company disappointed investors with first-quarter earnings that fell well short of analysts’ expectations, sending its NYSE-listed shares down 18% overnight, wiping a combined $1.7 billion from the fortunes of its three co-founders.

The digital games and e-commerce company said Tuesday that its net profit for the quarter ended March 31 was just over $87 million, compared with a net loss of $580 million a year earlier. Sea’s bottom line was hit hard by a $118 million goodwill impairment charge that pushed it well below analysts’ consensus estimates of $224 million, as compiled by Bloomberg.

Forrest Lee, Sea’s chairman and group CEO, highlighted the fact that his technology firm is trying to do more with fewer resources to improve profitability. “As we continue to fine-tune our operations and navigate near-term macro uncertainties, we remain very confident in the long-term opportunities in our markets and our ability to profitably exploit them,” he said in a statement.

Sea said its first-quarter revenue was $3 billion, up 5% from a year earlier, its slowest pace of growth in three years. The company’s weak result highlighted uneven performance in all units.

E-commerce revenue in the period grew 36% year-over-year to $2.1 billion, while their digital financial services grew 75% to $412.8 million. But revenue at the digital entertainment unit, once the biggest contributor to revenue, fell 43% to $540 million as it faces headwinds, including an Indian ban on its flagship mobile game Free Fire.

In an overnight report, Singapore-based CGS CIMB research analyst Ong Khang Chuen noted that while its online gaming unit Garena still faces challenges, “we are seeing green shoots with positive user trends for Free Fire” in April, and the launch of new games is expected in the first half of this year.

“With [Sea] now a profitable company with strong cash flow generation and balance sheet, we believe it is on a solid footing to capture ASEAN’s long-term digitization demise,” he added.

In March, Sea reported its first quarterly profit for the three months ended December 31, following a period of belt-tightening that included thousands of job cuts. To rein in costs, Sea has also scaled back its global ambition for Shopee, its e-commerce unit that competes with Alibaba’s binding and superapp Grab it. Last year, Shopee exited France, Spain and India – just months after launching a pilot in those markets.

Li co-founded Tencent-backed Sea with Group COO Gang Ye and Shopee’s Chief Product Officer David Chen In 2009, the year the trio first launched the online gaming platform Garena, with support from angel investors like the late Skype co-founder Toivo Annus. Six years later, Sea launched Shopee in Singapore and has since expanded worldwide.

The company’s fintech unit has also made some progress with its digital payments and services. In September 2021 SeaMoney launched its digital bank in Indonesia. It has also acquired digital bank licenses in Malaysia and Singapore.

The company’s shares fell 18% in New York overnight to close at $72.50 a share. The fall reduced Li’s net worth by $1 billion to $4.6 billion, while Ye’s fortune fell by $552 million to $3 billion, according to Forbes real-time list of billionaires. Meanwhile, Chen’s fortune fell by $177 million to $800 million.

Sea’s shares are up about 37 percent this year, still well below the stock’s all-time high of $357.8 reached in 2021, when a pandemic lockdown boosted online gaming and shopping.

Li was ranked 11th on the list Singapore 50 richest which went public in September, with a net worth of $4.2 billion at the time.

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