Charm Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHRM) Q4 2010 Earnings Call Transcript February 24, 2011 8:00 AM ET
Justin Raybeck (ph) – IR
He Dang – Chairman and CEO
Wei Zhou – CFO
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
James Marsh – Piper Jaffray
Ian Whittaker – Liberum Capital
Hello and thank you for standing by for Charm Communications Earnings Conference Call. At this time all participants are in a listen only mode. After management’s prepared remarks there will be a question-and-answer session. Today’s conference is being recorded. If you have any objections you may disconnect at any time.
I’ll now like to turn the meeting over to your host for today’s conference, Mr. Justin Raybeck (ph) from Ogilvy Financial. Please proceed.
Hello everyone and welcome to Charm Communications earnings conference call for the fourth fiscal quarter which ended December 31, 2010. The company’s earnings results were released yesterday and are available on the company’s IR website at ir.charmgroup.cn as well as on newswire services.
Today you will hear opening remarks from Charm’s Founder and Chairman, Mr. Dang followed by the company’s Chief Financial Officer, Wei Zhou, who will provide a financial overview and guidance for the fourth quarter. After their prepared remarks, they will be available to answer your questions.
Before we continue, please note that the discussion today will contain certain forward-looking statements made under the Safe Harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from our current expectations.
Charm does not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements except as required under applicable law. Also, please note that some of the information to be discussed includes non-GAAP financial measures as defined in Regulation G. The most direct comparable U.S. GAAP financial measures and information reconciling these non-GAAP financial measures, the Charm’s financial results prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP are included in Charm’s earnings release which has been posted on the company’s IR website at ir.charmgroup.cn.
As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. In addition, a webcast of this conference call will be available on Charm’s Investor Relations website.
I will now turn the call over to Charm Communications Founder, Chairman and CEO, Mr. Dang.
[Interpreted] Hello, and welcome to our fourth quarter 2010 earnings conference call. With outstanding performance from each of our business units in a strong macro advertising environment we are pleased to announce record revenues and net income in the fourth quarter and for our first fiscal year at the listed company.
And in increasingly sophisticated advertising market clients are gradually turning away from the single media solutions to an integrated media solution. Anticipating this trend Charm made investments in 2008 and 2009 in satellite television and in staff and infrastructure to upgrade our integrated communications capabilities. We believe much of our success in 2010 can be attributed to these investments which helped Charm evolve into a more diversified media platform that saw 40% of our NC revenues coming from placements are Non CCTV media, and 60% of our principal media revenue coming from Non CCTV media.
We also experienced a robust advertising market in the fourth quarter, where we saw a combination of the usual fourth quarter seasonal momentum accompanied by strong demands from advertisers for both traditional TV advertising and for premium advertising resources.
For the full year 2010, CCR estimated that the overall Chinese advertising market growth rate again outpace GDP with market growth of 15% versus GDP growth of 10%. Television remained the most dominant advertising medium with approximately 70% market share while the Internet was the fastest growing advertising medium with annual growth rate of over 40%.
The advertising market is expected continue growing faster than GDP as China’s total advertising spent to GDP ratio remains at 0.5% compared to 1% as spent to GDP ratio in the developed markets like the U.S., UK and Hong Kong.
The reserves of China’s advertising market, Charm continued to capture a higher market share in 2010. Total customer advertising spending placed through or with Charm increased 70% from $375 million in 2009 to $637 million in 2010.
Our goal is to become the leading integrated advertising in media group in China and in 2010, we also continued to execute our strategy to achieve this goal and providing our clients with the best integrated advertising campaign, utilizing our unique creative in media resources.
We integrated Charm advertising spent in creative design with Digiums (ph) full media planning and buying for (inaudible) national brand campaign.
We integrated traditional TV advertising on CCTV in Tainjin satellite with search engine marketing and online video placement for Baiyao pharmaceuticals, (inaudible) calcium coke campaign.
We integrated branded contacts for a 11-week reality show on Shanghai Dragon TV with the full outdoor in bay branch campaign for Huaxia Banks, Huaxia FMEs start campaign. This campaign helps Huaxia Bank which is only the 10th largest bank in China in terms of asset size to be named by Fords magazine as the top 50 brand in China.
We successfully integrated campaigns and simplified our unique business model which allows us to capitalize on our partnerships with premium TV channels and media groups to expand our service offerings to our clients.
Moving on to highlights of our operations, we continued to execute on our strategy in the fourth quarter, winning new clients and making key investments in media resources and service capabilities.
For Charm advertising we were again a leading agency at the CCTV primetime auction and we secured key wins with industry leading Blue Chip Clients including Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, Lovol Heavy Industries, Hubei and (inaudible) Tourism Bureaus and (inaudible).
We also enhanced our full media buying capabilities by making key hires on our media buying team to expand our non-CCTV media buying capabilities. We will continue to invest in expanding our full media buying capabilities in 2011.
For Shangxing Media, we added Hubei Economic TV and Gehua Cables interactive HDTV to our media portfolio and successfully renewed our cooperation with Shanghai Dragon TV and all four CCTV programs.
2011 is our first year of operating Hubei Economics and we expect the first year an investment year, as we need to ramp up the sales operations and build up the local sales team. We expect results from Hubei to progressively improve to the course of the year and to marginally normalize beginning in the second year. From a strategic perspective Hubei is important as it marks our entrance into the more fragmented space of provincial and local terrestrial channels, where we see tremendous opportunity for consolidation and growth.
We are particularly excited about digital media advertising on Gehua Cables digital cable network, this is our second major alliance following our agreement with Wasu Digital in the third quarter of 2010 and we hope to play a central role in shaping this fast growing new media space.
For Charm Interactive, digital advertising spending was 2.5 times that of the third quarter with the bulk of the spending coming from existing customers.
For the full year 2010, we saw approximately 50% of spending going to mainstream portals like Sena (ph) and Solar (ph), 25% going to industry verticals like bid auto and IT168 and less than 25% going to search, SNS and online video sites which are all growing at a rapid pace and offer us a tremendous opportunity for above market growth within the Internet space.
Looking into 2011, we expect the overall advertising market will remain robust driven particularly by increasing demand and consumption from second and third tier sales.
Although media prices have increased, TV advertising is still the dominant and most valuable form for brand building. However, with higher prices and with company seeking more accurately targeted advertising for greater returns, more and more advertisers will continue turning to professional and integrated agencies like Charms.
Finally, we are acutely aware of the rapid growth and opportunities offered in the digital media space especially the Internet. We will continue to invest in building Charm Interactive scheme and technical expertise to grow the business organically. We will also keep a close eye on potential M&A opportunities that would accelerate our digital service offerings.
I’ll now hand you over to Wei Zhou, our CFO to discuss our operational and financial progress.
Thank you, Chairman Dang. Hello, everyone, on the call today. Before I go through the financials, I’d like to take you through our three core business segments to give you some updates on our progress. Please note in the first section, I’ll be referencing some of our fourth quarter and full year results using non-GAAP numbers in order to better convey our performance. We define non-GAAP turnover as the total customer advertising spending placed through or with Charm to reflect the scale of our business.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, turnover grew 68.3% year-over-year and 36.7% quarter-over-quarter to approximately $198.9 million. The year-over-year increase in turnover was mainly due to the increase in the number of advertising clients and the increase in advertising spending from existing clients. The quarter-to-quarter increase in turnover was largely because of our strong CCTV placement demands from clients in the fourth quarter due to seasonal factors. For the full-year 2010 turnover grew approximately 69.7% to $636.9 million.
I’ll break down them by business lines. The non-GAAP turnover for the advertising agency business grew 61.9% year-over-year and 45.5% quarter-over-quarter to $152 million in the fourth quarter of 2010. The year-over-year increase in the advertising business was mainly due to the increase in number of new agency clients and the increase in spending from existing agency clients. The quarter-over-quarter increase in turnover was mainly due to strong CCTV placements from clients as a result of the seasonality in the fourth quarter. For the full-year 2010 the turnover for the agency business grew 64.7% to approximately $474.3 million.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, we provided advertising agency services to 135 advertising clients of Charms, seven of which were acquired in the fourth quarter. The revenue extraction rate which is defined as revenue divided by turnover for the agency business was 5.1% compared to 5.4% for the fourth quarter of 2009 and 6.1% in the third quarter of 2010. This year-over-year decrease in the revenue extraction rate was mainly because of the large volume of larger than expected volume of increased media placement on CCTV which has lower revenue extraction rate versus non CCTV media.
In the fourth quarter, overall we expect revenue extraction rate to continue to increase as the company expands its full service offerings across all media platforms. Our turnover for the media investment management business, which operate under the Shangxing media brand grew 93.1% year-over-year and 14.3% quarter-over-quarter to $46.9 million. Compared with our fourth quarter of 2009, the increase was mainly due to the increase in satellite TV revenue as a result of price increases and the addition of exclusive CCTV programs to our portfolio. Compared with the third quarter of 2010, the increase was mainly due to the seasonality of the satellite TV revenues.
For the full year 2010 the turnover for the media investment management business grew 86.3% to approximately $162.6 million. For the fourth quarter of 2010, we had 266 advertisers for our principal media business compared with 186 advertisers in the fourth quarter of 2009.
Now going back to the GAAP figures, our total U.S. GAAP revenue for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $56.7 million representing an increase of 85.1% compared to $30.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 and an increase of 17.1% compared to $48.4 million in the third quarter of 2010. For the full year 2010, GAAP revenues grew 81.4% to approximately $192.4 million.
Revenue for our advertising agency business was $7.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2010, representing an increase an of 53.3% compared to $5.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 and an increase of 22.3% compared to $6.3 million in the third quarter of 2010. For the full year 2010 revenues for the advertising agency business grew 61.9% to approximately $24.8 million.
Principal media business revenues were $46.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, these numbers reflect the same changes in the turnover numbers that I have discussed – our non-GAAP turnover numbers that I have discussed above. Increase in both the agency and principal media revenues are also consistent with the increase in turnover.
Brand and identity services revenues were $2.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2010, representing an increase of 59.4% compared to $1.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 and an increase of 90.7% compared to $1.1 million in the third quarter of 2010. The increase in brand and identity services revenues were primarily due to greater client demand for creative services as they increased to overall media spending in the fourth quarter of 2010. For the full year 2010 revenues for brand and identity services grew 44.3% to approximately $5 million.
Cost of revenue for the fourth quarter of 2010 was $34.6 million compared to $17.7 million and $29.6 million for the fourth quarter of ‘09 and second quarter of ‘10 respectively. We mainly attribute the year-over-year increase to the addition of exclusive CCTV programs and an increase of satellite TV media cost. The sequential cost increase in mainly due to the revenue increase. For the full year 2010 cost of revenue grew 71.6% to approximately $123.8 million.
Gross profit for the third quarter of 2010 was $22.1 million, representing an increase of 70.8% from $12.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2009 and an increase of 17.4% from $18.8 million for the third quarter of 2010. For the full year 2010 gross profit grew a 102.5% to approximately $68.6 million.
Selling and marketing expenses were $5.5 million for the fourth quarter of ‘10, representing an increase of 63.2% from $3.4 million in the fourth quarter of ‘09 and a decrease of 5% from $5.8 million in the third quarter of 2010. The increase in selling and marketing expenses compared with fourth quarter ‘09 was primarily due to the increase in headcount at Charm Interactive and Digium (ph). Selling and marketing expenses represented 9.7% of the company’s total revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to 11% in fourth quarter of ‘09, and 11.9% for the third quarter of ‘10. For the full year 2010 selling and marketing expenses grew 85% to approximately $20.3 million.
General and administrative expenses were $2.5 million for the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to $1.7 million for the fourth quarter of ‘09 and $1.6 million for the third quarter of ‘10. The year-over-year increase in our G&A expenses was primarily due to professional expenses incurred after the company became a listed company. The sequential increase was primarily due to more professional expenses incurred in the fourth quarter of 2010. As a result of the above operating profit was $14.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to $7.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2009 and $11.4 million for the third quarter of 2010. For the full year 2010, the G&A expenses grew approximately 21.4% approximately $6.7 million.
Our fourth quarter non-GAAP net income which excludes share-based compensation expenses and impairments on investments was $14.5 million compared with $8.3 million in the fourth quarter of ‘09 and $11.7 million for the third quarter of 2010.
For the full 2010, we had tax expense of $2 million and GAAP net income was $38.5 million representing an increase of 162.1% from $15.3 million in 2009.
Fully diluted net income for EPS for the full year 2010 was $0.98 compared to $0.13 for 2009.
Our full year 2010 non-GAAP income, which excludes share-based compensation expenses and impairments on investments was $42.8 million compared to $19.5 million for 2009.
Cash flow from operations for the fourth quarter of 2010 was positive. And as of December 31, 2010 we have cash and cash equivalents of $123.3 million on the balance sheet compared to $116.4 million at the end of the third quarter of 2010.
As of December 31, 2010, we have 525 employees, compared to 447 employees as compared at end the third quarter 2010.
And now return to our business outlook. We estimate total revenues for the first quarter of 2011 to range from $58 million to $59.5 million. First quarter 2011 non-GAAP net income which excludes share-based compensation expenses and impairments is expected to be between $8.25 million to $8.75 million. We based these estimates on a foreign exchange rate of 6.6 NEB for U.S. dollar.
This forecast reflects our current and preliminary view which is subject to change. Thank you for attention. I will now hand the call over to operator, who will open the line for questions.
(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from the line of Wallace Cheung with Credit Suisse. Please proceed.
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
Hi good evenings, congratulation very good quarter and good guidance as well. First quickly on the two questions, number one is regarding the new media business, roughly what’s the kind of like contribution in the fourth quarter, say I mean on the advertising agency side and also my second question is, since like your fourth quarter, the number of employees have jumped quite a bit, is it mainly because of the new hiring of the new media business, is that the case, are we going to expect that the new media business contribution will be more significant in 2011, thank you?
Thank you for your question, Wallace. I think, to answer your first question in terms of new media contribution in the fourth quarter, I think in terms of advertising, in terms of the agency revenue, we saw it increased to around 6% of the agency revenue as compared to around sort of last year which is relatively low. And to answer your second question, in terms of the increase in the number of staff, I think in the fourth quarter, we saw staff increase primarily because of the addition of two media resources that we added to our portfolio. First is Hubei Satellite TV where we actually had to setup local sales team there, as our sales team were setting up for our Beijing Gehua, for there we had an increase of around 50 people. Secondly, in the fourth quarter, we also saw an increase in the number of staff for not just Charm Interactive, I think the Charm Interactive we’ve been accumulating staff there through the course of the year on starting with the number was less than 10 at the beginning of the year and then by the end of the year we saw the number of Charm Interactive increase to around 55. But, in the fourth quarter that number has been relatively stable whereas where we saw increase in headcount is actually for the Non CCTV Media buying business where we increased staff by 15, primarily with a new team leader there.
I think, to answer short of your last question about what we expect contribution from the Internet business, I think we definitely expect this percentage to increase through the course of the year in 2011.
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
Okay. Thank you. So I’d like, again just a quick follow up on the new media business. So, are we going to expect for Charm to set up some, kind of like exclusive meeting, reference of the contract on the new media business in 2001, thank you?
I think, for Charm Interactive I think the strategy here is to provide, initially to provide our existing Charm advertising clients with our new media services. I think for the media, for the new media business, for the expansion in terms of the principal media business into the digital area, our focus this year will actually be on the Beijing Gehua Digital TV as well as our joint-venture with Wasu Digital. I think the focus for the internet business currently is to continue to increase our staff and also increase our technical expertise for the Charm Interactive side.
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
Thank you very much.
Your next comes from the line of James Marsh with Piper Jaffray. Please proceed.
James Marsh – Piper Jaffray
Yes. Good evening. My question relates to inflation and typically inflation is good for ad sellers. I wanted to talk about your view on whether or not your clients would be able to pass along some of the higher inflationary costs in the China market to consumers. And just how that might impact our ability to price your count or your advertisements and how it might impact the demand for those advertisements?
[Interpreted] I think, first of all, what we’re seeing is that although media prices are increasing, what we are seeing is that on television advertising is still the most effective platform or method for a company to establish their brands. So, what we are seeing is rather than sort of turning away from television what we are seeing is that advertisers are becoming more selective in terms of, and also more, I would say more focused on our return for their investments. So, what we are seeing for, in this situation we are seeing two cases, first of all for agency business we are actually seeing customers are increasing, increasingly choosing firms like Charm which can help them to sort of not just in terms of placing ad on a single media, but on a multimedia to provide sort of return integrated campaign. And then, second of all, what we are seeing is that our advertisers are, in terms of when choosing their platforms are choosing what they call, what we call more premium media resources those that can help them to generate their brand equity, help them to increase their brand equity which are these premium resources. So, I think for Charm, that will help our media business because a lot of the media resources that we have taken for example the new media resource that we added Hubei Economic TV, one of the top three rank channels within that province as well as within the city of Wuhan which is the provincial capital of Hubei. So I think, overall we will stand to benefit from this. And to answer short of your first question in terms of pass through I think given the premium nature, I think we still continue to see strong demand from our television advertisers.
James Marsh – Piper Jaffray
Okay, thank you very much.
And your next question comes from the line of Ian Whittaker with Liberum. Please proceed.
Ian Whittaker – Liberum Capital
Hi, yes, thanks so much. Three question, just first of all, can you say whether the strength, you may have answered this earlier and apologies if you have. But can you say whether the strength that you saw in Q4 that wasn’t expected. How about you continued into Q1 or whether you’re seeing a moderation of that growth? Second thing is just really if you could outline a bit further what you’re plans are to expand into further regional channels and what this will mean for the business? And the third thing just has to do with the revenue extraction rate. You mentioned a dip in the fourth quarter, you explained why and you said there would be recovered coming through. Can you just go through how long you expect it take to get back to more normalized levels with regard to the extraction rate?
[Interpreted] Thank you. I think I’ll let Mr. Dang answer the first question and then I’ll go back to the next two questions. I’ll translate for Mr. Dang real quickly.
First of all I think, we estimate that for 2011 the overall advertising market to grow at around 15% and television advertising will probably follow the same rate of growth. Secondly, I’ll like to mention that the seasonality is particularly strong within the Chinese advertising market with fourth quarter being the strongest and in first quarter, we started New Year to complete the weaker. I think, sort of to answer, I’ll add to that point in terms of where we see sort of the momentum. I think, we see the momentum continuing into the New Year particularly driven by domestic consumption. I think one of the key drivers that we see for growth in terms of advertising is domestic consumption within the second tier and third tier city. And as the consumption increases, I think from advertisers perspective, they need to basically continue to hold their brand. And as we mentioned earlier, we believe that television is still the best form for these, especially new advertisers to the city. So I think, in fact the momentum continues into 2011. Although, as Mr. Dang mentioned, there will be seasonal factors in the first quarter compared to fourth quarter because of the one of the characteristics of local market.
And to answer the second question regarding our expansion strategy to the weakness channels, I think our expansion here will be a combination of two things. First of all, for our media business, we’ve already done that contract with Hubei Economic TV in the fourth quarter of 2010. And as you know the sort of the contract signing process for new channels, typically starts in the second half of the year. So for 2011, we expect to continue to add channel probably more into this more regional channels at the end of the year.
Second of all, I think we’ll also be expanding our buying capability or buying ability into the regional channels as well particularly non media, television of others. And that I think will be a combination of pass in that area but also increase in infrastructure of the buying platform.
Again to answer your third question regarding the extraction rate, I think fourth quarter of this year, we saw a particularly strong demand out of CCTV so that brought our extraction rate down to around I think 5.1% for the fourth quarter. I think if we just sort of take out the $20 million of spent from that I think we’ll probably see around the 5.4% number which was same as last year. I think overall we expect the trend to increase I think, it’ll be a gradual process and it may fluctuate a little bit due to seasonal trends of the different media from a quarter-to-quarter basis. But, I think the overall trend is to increase and our long term target for that is around above 7% which is the extraction rate for a lot of the international agencies particularly as we increase our spending into non-strategic media and the internet.
Ian Whittaker – Liberum Capital
All right, Ray. Thank you very much.
(Operator Instructions) Ladies and gentlemen this concludes our Q&A session. I would like to turn the call over to Charm’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Wei Zhou for closing remarks. Please standby, we are showing a question in the line from Wallace Cheung with Credit Suisse.
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
Hello, good evening. Just wanted to get a sort of updates on the guidance, number one is, can you talk a bit on the split between the ad agency and the media investment revenue. And also if you look at the top line guidance as far as the non-GAAP net profit guidance, it seems like the top line actually still growing on sequentially, but we are seeing like non-GAAP net income numbers slightly to come down, partly because I guess is seasonality or is it also because of the rise of the media cost, can you explain a bit more on that, thank you?
Sure, I think if you look at to breakdown between sort of the media business versus the agency business. I think from the revenue perspective, I think we probably expect around 80%, 85% of that revenue from the media business around 16 from the agency side of the business. And in terms of the margin of the business, I think as we explained on the call, I think one of the assets that we increased in our media portfolio was our Hubei Economic TV and given this is our first quarter of operation, we expect, although there will be a significant revenue contribution from that resource. But, the contribution from gross profit line down will actually be minimal. So, this is why I think we saw a lower margin in this business for the – we’ll see a lower margins for this business in the first quarter. But we expect that business to ramp up through the course of the year, so we expect our margin, so we expect an upward margin trend through the course of the year.
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
Thank you. Just a quick follow up like case of the rest of the kind of business, so just to mean like the other kind of like meeting national job with cost, it’s actually growing up in a normal kind of growth rate?
I think for the other, for the other media cost, I think as we mentioned on the call, I think for the outside of Hubei satellite channels for the other media resources, we probably expect our similar margin trends as compared to last year.
Wallace Cheung – Credit Suisse
Great. Thank you.
And at this time, I would like to turn the call over to Charm’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Wei Zhou for closing remarks.
Thank you for all for joining us today. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us, you can go to our website, which is charmgroup.cn or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very much.
Thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This concludes the presentation. You may now disconnect. Have a good day.
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