Baidu Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDU) released Q4 FY2014 results, which included revenue of 14.1 billion RMB (in line with management guidance) and net income of 2.8 billion RMB. Fourth quarter revenues met consensus estimates, but missed the consensus non-GAAP EPADS estimate of 9.95 RMB. The company reported a +16% YoY increase in advertising customers, but with mobile revenue growing to 42% of the total, up from 36% in Q3, the monetization gap was a drag on results. Management acknowledged the monetization challenges in the mobile business in its prepared remarks, and shared its expectation for a gradual improvement in the year ahead.
First quarter revenue guidance of about 12.9 billion RMB was significantly lower than the 13.6 billion RMB consensus estimate, which management explained reflect timing of the Chinese New Year and effects of the growing contribution of mobile.
|Recent Quarterly Performance||FY2014|
|Earnings per share||7.90||7.21||10.09||11.00||9.01|
|Earnings per share||-1%||23%||34%||27%||14%|
|Earnings per share||-8%||-9%||40%||9%||-18%|
Baidu generated about 5.3 billion RMB of operating cash flow in Q4, and spent about 1.5 billion RMB on capital expenditures.
The fourth quarter balance sheet remained strong, with about 58 billion RMB of highly liquid assets (cash and cash equivalents, short-term investments), easily exceeding total short-term and long-term liabilities.
Baidu’s Q1 FY2015 outlook included the following:
- Revenue: between 12.65 billion to 13.07 billion RMB (+35% YoY, -9% QoQ)
The first quarter outlook reflects both the timing of the Chinese New Year (relatively late in 2015), as well as the estimated impact of changes in the mix between PC and mobile revenues. Mobile monetization is not as strong as PC, something the management has been trying to fix, hence what appears to be a revenue slowdown when looking at figures alone.
When considering the unmistakable trend of mobile devices becoming the platform of choice for many Chinese Internet users, Baidu has little choice to focus its business development efforts in this area. For shareholders, the likely near-term implications include top-line pressure and tighter margins, but if the company can establish and defend a dominant position in mobile like it has in PC, the results could be worth the cost to achieve them.
Management noted that in December 2014, mobile search revenue exceeded PC for the first time.
|The rising trend in revenue per customer suggests that prior efforts to focus on key clients are delivering results.|
In earlier conference calls, CEO Li explained that mobile was also a driver for average spend, as customers were broadening their use of online advertising services.
|Growth in the number of online marketing customers is a clear positive for Baidu, underscoring its competitive position as the “go-to” provider of search advertising.|
The slowing pace of new customers in Q4 can be influenced by seasonality, but the +16% YoY change also reflects management discontinuing business with some clients in 2H FY2013 to help improve user experience.
|Baidu Inc. Income Statement||FY2014|
|Online marketing services||9,462,202||9,378,318||11,836,858||13,427,179||13,844,607|
|Cost of revenues||-3,656,489||-3,837,340||-4,541,422||-5,068,337||-5,438,351|
|Selling, general, and administrative||-1,862,966||-2,008,890||-2,148,874||-2,700,008||-3,524,371|
|Research and development||-1,263,835||-1,276,650||-1,737,216||-1,831,590||-2,135,506|
|Operating profit margin||29%||25%||30%||29%||21%|
|Foreign exchange gain/loss, net||-40,861||97,302||81||-44,476||22,873|
|Income/loss from equity method investments||-651||-5,603||-5,501||-9,982||-5,867|
|Other income, net||115,399||77,526||66,888||20,091||93,200|
|Income tax expense||-338,832||-430,296||-605,614||-656,768||-538,493|
|Net profit margin||28%||25%||28%||27%||21%|
|Net income/loss due noncontrolling interests||-89,870||-124,880||-214,815||-288,227||-315,776|
|Net income due Baidu, Inc.||2,784,263||2,535,192||3,546,696||3,876,112||3,229,069|