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Bidz.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDZ)

F3Q08 Earnings Call

November 10, 2008 4:30 pm ET

Executives

Andrew Greenebaum - ICR

David Zinberg - Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, Secretary

Leon Kuperman - President, Chief Technology Officer,

Lawrence Y. Kong - Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer, Secretary, Director

Analysts

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

Sam Steinman - Cedar Creek

Operator

Welcome to the Bidz.com third quarter 2008 earnings conference call. During today’s presentation all parties will be in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation the conference will be opened for questions. (Operator Instructions) The conference is being recorded today, Monday, November 10, 2008. I would now like to turn the conference over to Andrew Greenebaum of ICR.

Andrew Greenebaum

Thank you for joining us today to discuss Bidz.com’s third quarter 2008 financial results. With us on the call today are David Zinberg, Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence Kong, Chief Financial Officer, and Leon Kuperman, President and Chief Technical Officer and Vice President of Business Development.

By now everyone should have access to the press release which went out at 4:00 today Eastern Time. If you’ve not received it, it’s available on the Investor Relations portion of Bidz.com’s website.

Before we begin today we’d like to remind everyone of the Safe Harbor statements under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The following prepared remarks contain forward-looking statements and management may make additional forward-looking statements in response to your questions. These statements do not guarantee future performance and therefore undue reliance should not be placed upon them. For a more detailed discussion of the factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in any forward-looking statements, we refer you to Bidz.com filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission including the most recent annual report filed on Form 10K, quarterly reports filed on Form 10Q, as well as current reports filed on Form 8K.

With that I’d like to turn the call over to David Zinberg.

David Zinberg

Welcome to our third quarter conference call. I would provide some highlights from our solid third quarter and then give a brief overview of our business initiatives. Then Leon Kuperman, our newly appointed President, will provide an update of existing developments in our business. Lawrence Kong, our Chief financial Officer, will provide more details on the third quarter financial results and discuss our fourth quarter outlook.

We are fortunate to be so nimble in what has been an increasingly difficult domestic environment for most [inaudible] and consumer brands. Our ability to make adjustments for our operating model includes reducing variable costs in response to change in consumer demand. It is what enables us to report third quarter earnings ahead of our guidance.

We are very pleased with our performance during the third quarter especially on the bottom line. During the third quarter we continued to experience strong revenue growth and increase profitability. Sales grew 38% with our international sales up 17.5% year-over-year and domestic sales up 44.8%. Our new business-to-business contributed $17.2 million in revenues. We exceeded our EPS guidance for the seventh quarter in a row. This is very significant and earnings are the primary metric we focus on.

We saw good success with our Spanish language translation from our auction site and in fact Spain, Mexico, Chile and Columbia are now all [inaudible] top 10 countries in which we conduct business.

We remain extremely committed to meeting and protecting our profit objectives in spite the weak consumer environment. We will accomplish this through strengthening our brand in new advertising campaigns which Leon will discuss and continue to make adjustments to our business and [inaudible] in response to changing consumer demand and retail environment.

Our longer term focus remains building a strong foundation to take advantage of economic recovery whenever it occurs.

Finally, I’d like to address management changes announced today. Leon Kuperman has been appointed the position of President of Bidz.com. We’ve been planning this promotion for a long time so that I can focus more of my energies on primarily the areas of my expertise: Strategic planning, purchasing and merchandising our assortment while allowing Leon to take over some of my other responsibilities such as sales, marketing, profit generation and [inaudible] initiatives.

Leon has demonstrated his capabilities over the past two years to Bidz.com in his role as Vice President of Business Development and Chief Technology Officer including overseeing and [inaudible] of our auction club point to a new rise bid system and the allowance of two foreign language translations. Already Leon, along with Lawrence Kong our CFO, have been the face of Bidz.com at naming investor confidences. I have the utmost confidence in Leon as does our Board of Directors.

With that I’ll give you now our new President, Leon Kuperman.

Leon Kuperman

I’d like to discuss some of our developments since our last conference call and update you on some newer initiatives.

In the third quarter our team has been busy retooling our email marketing and promotions engines to allow for more personalized marketing activity. If you have purchased an item from Bidz since August, you’ll have noticed our new in package program that encourages traditional Bidz customers to try Buyz.com by providing various discounts and coupon incentives. We are also working to better target our in-house email marketing campaign through customer segmentation. As a result, open rates and resulting activity have improved significantly.

Our first foreign language translation into Spanish has proven successful. International sales represented about 30% of our online revenue for the third quarter, up from 24% last year. We attribute some of this gain to the Spanish translation. Since the end of the quarter we have also launched our second language translation, Arabic. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emeritus were already in our top 10 countries before launching of the translation and we are seeing promising results out of the Middle East since the launch.

We have an additional translation in progress. These foreign translations are very important. Not only do they help us grow sales by reaching a larger audience but they serve as an important function of diversifying our revenue stream across various geographies. We are pleased to see six Spanish and Arabic speaking countries among the top 10 countries from which we generate sales.

For many months we have been preparing for our important fourth quarter. As we mentioned last quarter, in the upcoming gift giving season we will feature a greater variety of brand name items which we believe will be well received this holiday season. The product selection at Bidz has never been stronger.

We have also conducted scalability testing on our systems to ensure that we are capable of handling any increase in demand. With the recent launch of Buyz.com, this will be the first year that we expect meaningful benefit from Cyber Monday and we believe we are ready.

We are also offering several new upsells in the checkout process this year including the option to purchase jewelry boxes, a comprehensive warranty program and a jewelry appraisal report.

I’d like to spend a few moments speaking about our marketing and brand directions. Everything we have accomplished at Bidz in the last 10 years has been solely with the support of online marketing consisting of search advertising, affiliate marketing, display ad marketing and email marketing. We believe we need to continue to strategically invest in our brand awareness identity and image to increase both trial and repeat usage, broaden our reach and appeal, and improve conversions by better knowing our customers’ likes and preferences.

Consequently we have hired a creative branding agency to help develop campaigns for both Bidz and Buyz which will be featured around major holiday seasons such as Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day. Look for our ads through direct mail and on TV starting mid-November.

Though we’re the number two online dealer and retailer in the world, we believe there are many potential customers out there who are unaware that Bidz and Buyz exist. We want to make sure that that changes. We have factored the additional branding and advertising spend into our guidance and we remain confident that we can still achieve the guidance we have set up today by carefully managing other costs.

Now I’d like to hand the call over to Lawrence who will go over specifics of our financial results and guidance.

Lawrence Y. Kong

Before I talk about the financials in detail, I wanted to say that despite the extremely challenging economy we continue to do well and are proud of the positive achievements we accomplished this quarter. We remain highly focused on our strategy to manage expenses and strengthen our brand and are continually making adjustments to our business and product offerings that will enhance our short- and long-term initiatives. We have been disciplined about balancing investments and have set objectives in motion to control costs and enhance productivity.

The steps we are taking should deliver substantial benefits to operating cash flow. We believe we have a competitive advantage in this market and are the destination of choice for consumers and the leader in providing the best place to buy jewelry. The last several months have been exciting for Bidz while we are increasingly becoming a highly recognizable brand.

Additionally, we continued to repurchase shares during the third quarter and are evaluating further purchases on a regular basis. To date we have repurchased a total of approximately 1,378,000 shares in the open market for a total of $12 million at an average price of $8.74 per share. We still have approximately $8 million for additional share repurchases and we expect to continue to make additional share repurchases in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Now I would like to talk about the financials in detail. Net revenue was $25.4 million, a 38.2% increase over $40.1 million from the same period of 2007. The increase in revenue was mainly due to the increase in off line B2B sales which accounted for $17.2 million in revenue and was factored into our guidance. Our main source of revenue will continue to be our online options B2B. At this time we are not planning to have significant B2B revenues during this holiday season.

However there are likely to be options to purchase a large lot of inventory at deeply discounted prices and we will evaluate such purchases on a case-by-case basis. With our excellent cash position we believe that we can take advantage of such opportunities as we enter 2009.

Additionally, the B2B channel provides us with another means of managing and selling inventory and continues to be relatively liquid even in these current market conditions. While uncertainty in the economy is affecting overall demand for our jewelry products, we are very confident that the actions we are taking will enable us to maintain financial performance even in a difficult business environment.

Gross profit in the third quarter of 2008 increased 4.7% to $13.3 million compared to $12.7 million in the prior year. Our gross margin percentage in the third quarter was 24% compared to 31.75 a year ago. The decrease in gross margin was due to the significant B2B butcher knife sales that generate lower gross profit margin. As you know, wholesale sales generate much of the overall gross margins at auction sales. However we feel that the net margin contribution is advantageous because wholesale transactions require minimal operating expenses.

The exceptional value we provide to our customers combined with the fun and entertaining aspect of our user friendly live auctions has enabled us to generate strong sales well past the time that most other jewelry retailers began to experience weakness. We too are now beginning to see a slowdown. The impact of the economy on our business was evident for the first time this quarter in our performance metric which showed slight signs deterioration.

Traffic to our site remains good but we are seeing hesitation from customers to commit to purchasing. Our average selling price per order in the third quarter increased by 1.2% to $175 from $173 a year ago. Additionally, we had over 34,000 new buyers which is approximately 55,400 new buyers a year ago as we continue to attract new buyers to our site.

Our average items sold per day decreased slightly by 4.3% to 8,431 in Q308 from 8,814 in Q307. The number of items sold per order increased 3% to 3.4 times which was 3.3 in the previous year. The average number of orders per day decreased 9.1% to 2,453.

Total operating expenses in the third quarter of 2008 were $7.8 million compared with $7.5 million reported in the same period of 2007. The absolute dollar increase was mainly due to an increase in salaries and other administrative costs. However operating expense as a percentage of sales decreased to 14% from 18.8%.

General and administrative expenses increased 6.5% to $5.3 million in the third quarter of 2008 from $4.8 million in the same period of 2007. The increase was mainly due to necessary expenditures to support our overall growth, increases in payroll related expenses and other key administrative expenses. General and administrative expenses as a percentage of net revenue decreased to 9.5% in the third quarter of 2008 compared to 12.4% in the same period of 2007.

Sales and marketing expenses were $2.3 million in the third quarter of 2008 compared to $2.4 million in the same period last year. The decrease was due to less spending on marketing campaigns resulting from the rapidly weakening economy worldwide. Sales and marketing expenses as a percentage of net revenue decreased to 4.2% in the third quarter of 2008 from 6% in the same period of 2007.

For the third quarter income tax expense was $2.2 million with an effective tax rate of 40.3% compared to $1.6 million with an effective tax rate of 31.6% in the year ago period. We became fully taxed in 2008 since all of our operating loss carry-forwards were utilized in 2007.

Pre-tax income in the third quarter increased 4.7% to $5.5 million compared to $5.2 million a year ago achieving our guidance of $4.8 million to $5.2 million. The year-over-year increase in pre-tax income was due to a combination of continued demand for our jewelry products and B2B sales.

Net income for the third quarter of 2008 was $3.3 million or $0.13 per fully diluted share on 35.2 million weighted average shares outstanding exceeding guidance of $0.10 to $0.11. This would be the seventh consecutive quarter of exceeding our guidance. This compared to $3.6 million or $0.14 per fully diluted share on 26.3 million weighted average shares outstanding in the same period of 2007.

As of September 30, 2008 we had $8.3 million in cash and no long-term debt after spending approximately $4.2 million to buy back 455,000 shares this quarter. Additionally we had zero outstanding on our $25 million line of credit, and a positive cash flow and revolving line of credit remains one of our core financial strengths. We are continuing to improve our financial position and we the balance sheet strength, liquidity and the free cash flow we need to make progress on our core strategies as we work our way through this economic downturn.

Throughout the third quarter of 2008 we have been balancing our investments in key initiatives while also managing our costs to meet profitability goals. We had a working capital surplus of $31.5 million and the significant components of working capital are inventory and liquid assets such as cash and accounts receivable reduced by accounts payable, accrued expenses and deferred revenues. Our business model contains beneficial working capital characteristics. While we collect cash from sales customers within several business days of the related sales, we typically have extended payment terms with our suppliers.

Now turning to guidance. As mentioned earlier the global economic conditions deteriorated during the third quarter and we are cautious about guidance for the remainder of the year. While we performed better than expected in the third quarter, there is still significant uncertainty in the economy. We are taking a cautious approach by reducing our revenue estimate to reflect our expectation of a short-term slowdown in our overall business.

For 2008 we maintain our earnings guidance of $0.36 to $0.39 per share but now expect revenue to be in the range of $215 million to $225 million, down from $240 million to $245 million previously, and an increase of 15% to 20% year-over-year. We believe we have enough flexibility in our operating structure to achieve our EPS guidance. As we have mentioned in the past, one of our main priorities is to meet profitability and EPS targets despite having lower revenue estimates. We do not expect B2B merchandise sales to be significant in the fourth quarter during the traditional holiday shopping season.

In summary, despite a tough economic environment we remain confident about the company’s future and are very pleased with our overall performance this quarter. We are excited to continue growing and most importantly maintain profits in a very difficult environment. We look forward to keeping you posted on our progress.

With that I’d like to hand the call back to the operator so we can take your questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

A couple questions on the revenue guidance. The metrics that we see in terms of average orders and items sold, can you just kind of guide us to what you think will be the biggest drag or what you’ve modeled to be to bring that down?

Lawrence Y. Kong

I think the average order size and dollar amount per order will be not significantly lower but as we can all see in the current economic climate volume is going to be lower and I think that’s the way you should look at it.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Lawrence, you’re saying that average order size of $175 if I understood you correctly?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Yes, the $175.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

That has been relatively constant. So you really think it’s just the number of people?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Yes.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Can you tell us how the cadence went in the quarter? Does it coincide with everything else that we’ve heard at retail kind of in week two of October is when you really saw a fall-off or as you said a hesitancy? Maybe walk us how the quarter went cadence-wise in terms of orders and where you notice the hesitancy?

Lawrence Y. Kong

As you can see the traffic to our site remains pretty good but there is not a lot of as you can see people are committing to making the purchase. I think with the election and with the fact that there is a crisis in the financial markets a lot of people are scared and we believe that they are waiting longer to shop and that’s what we expect at this time.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

I guess what I’m trying to isolate is you saw this really in kind of August/September and it’s continued into October?

Lawrence Y. Kong

I think the crisis really went into free fall in September and we started seeing some of it in September.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Are you seeing something similar in your foreign sales? Is it the same kind of thing? Same pattern?

Leon Kuperman

It’s a little bit trickier to tell with some of the new foreign sites because we’re on a growth path with them whereas we were anticipating in the past foreign translations may be a highlight of the holiday season. We’re starting to see that that may be also difficult times for the international community as well.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

So if we talk about the existing foreign like the UK, Canada and Australia, have they pretty much mimicked the pattern that you saw in the US?

Leon Kuperman

Probably lagged by a bit, but yes.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

I’m curious how you measure hesitation. Is it that they are leaving items, not actually buying them? What is it that allows you to measure that?

Leon Kuperman

We have a standard metric that we look at which is the conversion rate for a visitor, and that has come down slightly.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

But are you seeing more people actually walk away from orders?

Leon Kuperman

It’s a combination of fewer people placing those final bids, some people walking away from orders, people abandoning some items in their shopping cart. It’s everything that combines to create conversion results.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

How much is left of the purchase that was made in May or June of that B2B component? How much inventory’s left and how much of that is in the inventory of the $50 some million?

David Zinberg

We have liquidated most of it and there is not very much left.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Hence why we saw the erosion in gross margins. That was more than I anticipated.

David Zinberg

We were very nimble and quick to react to the financial crisis and we felt that it would be very prudent to liquidate inventory and be cautious and maintain our balance sheet much leaner than we would normally do.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

But that would explain as you said the gross margin is much lower?

David Zinberg

Right.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Leon, congratulations.

Operator

Our next question comes from Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital

Did you guys quantify what B2B was in the quarter in terms of dollar revenues?

Leon Kuperman

Yes, we did.

Lawrence Y. Kong

Yes. We mentioned that it’s $17.2 million and our Q is out so all the details can be found in the Q report.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital

It looks like your marketing spend you’re able to run it pretty lean and manage that. Can you talk a little bit about any trends you see in terms of keyword buying and cost per keyword?

Leon Kuperman

The cost per keyword and marketing, we’ve been working on increasing that over time but the trends have been fairly stable. We’re not seeing any significant changes in cost per click yet.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital

I know you’ve been maintaining your average order size. Can you talk about the type of product that’s working on the site right now, kind of mix between watches versus rings or loose diamonds or what have you?

Leon Kuperman

We’re focusing a lot of our energy this holiday season on brand name inventory. We were able to get quite a bit of it thanks to our buying team and that’s the trend that we’re hoping will lead us to success this quarter.

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital

In particular, any product that you’re seeing more of out there?

Leon Kuperman

From a closeout perspective?

Mark Argento - Craig-Hallum Capital

Yes.

Leon Kuperman

It’s kind of all over the place. A steady mix that we’ve seen in the past.

David Zinberg

Closeout will happen usually after the fourth quarter. Now everybody is still holding on to their merchandise expecting to have sales for their Christmas season and after that we’ll be able to see a lot of closeout hitting us.

Operator

Our next question comes from [Gren Ling - Bears Capital].

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

Lawrence, I wanted to follow up on a point you made in your prepared comments that I didn’t actually hear the end of it. I understand B2B transactions kind of drove the gross margin down but you made some comment that there’s less SG&A involved in a B2B transaction where you’re not taking pictures and all those related activities with a wholesale transaction. Could you quantify the net profit contribution from a B2B transaction versus one sold online?

Lawrence Y. Kong

We didn’t break out the margin but it’s significantly less than online auction sales.

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

Even after the reduction in operating expenses?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Right.

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

As far as inventory levels, do you feel good about the amount you have going into the fourth quarter?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Yes. We’re a lean mean fighting machine.

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

Are you selling any inventory on consignment that you’re not actually buying?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Very little of that. For the nine month period it is probably around $200,000. We’re just testing it out.

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

What’s the next language site you guys are working on right now?

Leon Kuperman

The next language that we’ll be releasing in this quarter will be German.

[Gren Ling - Bears Capital]

Any commentary on Buyz; how it’s doing relative to your expectations?

Leon Kuperman

Our plan is to really treat it as one business but Buyz is doing very well for the six months that it’s been operating. We’re getting a good pickup in sales but still overall a small portion of the business.

Operator

Our next question comes from Sam Steinman - Cedar Creek.

Sam Steinman - Cedar Creek

Could you run through the co-op marketing concept again? I noticed in the Q it was $2.3 million in the quarter. Where does that show up on the income statement? Is it a reduction of selling expense or is it an increase in gross margin? What exactly is it?

Lawrence Y. Kong

It shows up as a reduction in cost of sales and market contributions are quite common in the retail environment where we get vendors to contribute towards our marketing efforts.

Sam Steinman - Cedar Creek

Also maybe just comment again on why this seems like the right time to have David transition? It sounds like sort of a pretty tough environment. Why is this the time to do that?

David Zinberg

We’ve been planning to do it for a very long time because I’d like to stay in-house more and spend my time and my efforts on purchasing and making sure that we’re taking only the right merchandise; and Leon and Lawrence will be going on the road shows and presenting at conferences.

Operator

Our next question comes from Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Given the fact that there’s a lot of inventory obviously in the supply chain and I haven’t looked at the Q since I’m on the road, but is it you had made or that you’re buying from L.A. Jewelers?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Yes, we are.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

How much?

Lawrence Y. Kong

I think in the third Q it was over 20%.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

So that’s sequentially gone up quite a bit if I remember correctly?

Lawrence Y. Kong

Yes, it has.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

What’s the reason behind that?

David Zinberg

L.A. Jewelers guarantees us a 20% profit margin.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

I know that you guys have used when you had merchandise designed specifically you kind of use it to fill in when things aren’t available in the off-price market, but it would seem intuitive with everything that’s happenings and the dislocation at retail that you would have plenty of supply outside of that one particular vendor. Is it because of the guarantees, it’s just easier to go that route?

David Zinberg

It is first of all guarantee and second it is located right here in downtown closer. One of the biggest reasons is that he is the largest on the West Coast. They’ve got a huge inventory and if we ever need to fill out any particular niche, the easiest and most convenient way for us to do it is to deal with the biggest on the West Coast.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

Leon, what’s the thought on free shipping for the holiday season since that seems to be such a heated topic right now?

Leon Kuperman

In two days’ time on Wednesday, you’ll see us announce a new promotion for the holiday season. We’re going to initially start with a one-week test but the promotion will allow customers to win five items in a given day and when they pay for it on the same day, they will receive free shipping.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

But they have to purchase five items?

Leon Kuperman

They have to purchase at least five items and they have to pay for them the same day they won the items.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

The coupons and the package, what kind of response rate have you had to that?

Leon Kuperman

I don’t have the exact percentage but it’s been a fantastic return on investment for us. We’re not only proceeding with the in-package promotion throughout next year but also with direct mail campaigns to our existing customers.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

That was my next question, how the direct mail piece went?

Leon Kuperman

Direct mail we were able to reinvigorate a lot of previous customers who maybe we weren’t on top of mine and they were able to come back to the site and initiate some great purchases.

Elizabeth Pierce - Roth Capital Partners LLC

David, how would you clarify, since you probably have a much better perspective of this than the rest of us, your inventory position just qualitatively in product versus last year for the holidays?

David Zinberg

We have a lot more brand name merchandise that we did not have last year and we are just getting better at what we do. We see what people need and we can fulfill that.

Operator

At this time there are no further questions in the queue. Ladies and Gentlemen, this does conclude our conference for today. We thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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