Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Thoughts on the scalability of online gaming/platform companies




This post came as a very random thought after i have been hooked on watching this competition show online called Produce 101. Which is a product of Tencent , a company listed in hkex

Which sparked me to pen down some thoughts including the difference between online gaming/platform companies vs a traditional company that produces goods.


Cost

The fixed cost for traditional companies would usually be a factory, vehicles, machinery. Whereas these software companies would usually be electricity, the places where it houses it servers as well as the cost of running and maintaining these servers. The extra consumption of 1 person using an online game or service is definitely far lesser than a person purchasing goods from a traditional company. This is because the goods are likely to have far larger variable cost (example raw materials cost, cost of transporting the goods and storing them). Over more demand, there is definitely more cost savings to be found in the online companies.

This means that it is likely that these online based companies can have enhanced margins compared to a company that produces goods.

The downside to this risk will be that there is high set up cost involved and there will be needs for huge marketing to entice people to play the game and spend on it.

An example can be seen from the 2017 annual results of Ourgame (Hkex: 6899)





A quick computation of the gross profit margins indicated that surprisingly 2017 had better gross margins of 53.3% compared to 53% in 2016. However the huge decrease in revenue meant that this small improvement did not seem to matter at all and resulted in huge losses. Also we can see that the company is able to maintain solid margins despite a higher revenue(the point above)

Another point worth noting in this company will be the increase in selling and marketing expense. While it did not result in results improving this year, it will be interesting to see if this will result in the company's revenue to recover.


Fallen Legacy

Not sure if most of you remember the online games you played during your school days. For me it has to be Maplestory, i would always remember the loading screen displaying Asiasoft before it goes into the log in screen



Well do i play the game still? Nope
Does many people still play it? I guess the numbers have long ago peaked and ran into sharp decline ever since
Is the South East Asia game distributor still around? Yes, Asiasoft is still around
How has it been performing?


At the IPO Price of $12 in 2008, the company has paid out a total of 4.258 Baht worth of dividends
If one has held the shares since ipo and believe in the power of maplestory and friends, he would have lost roughly 50% of his investment.

Well Asiasoft has been unprofitable in 2014,2015,2016( was unable to read thai well and unable to sieve out previous years results). Its last dividend payment is also in November 2013, which adds up to the unprofitable story all together.

While i am not entirely sure what has led to the decline, a part of me would believe that people are switching to other games and the company as a whole has failed to retain current players and attract more.
Something beyond that will be they are unable to entice these players to spend on their games as well as the older days. These could have been all due to the advancement in technology and communications network. I remember broadband was such a privilege in the 2000s and Dota was still a game not well monetized. Now it has been monetized so well and definitely would have played some part in attracting people to play Dota 2 instead of Maplestory.

The food for thoughts i gathered here would be that 'Would this game be able to grow and attract more players?' 'Would the company be able to have new games to attract more players?' 'What is the method used to entice players to spend on it? Has it worked?'
I believe if one plays the game he would have a slight advantage over those that do not. But he will still have to answer the thoughts above as well.

Produce 101

Alright back to Produce 101, this competition allows for voting from viewers to decide 11 girls which will end up debuting as a girl group. Viewers can vote 1 time per day and purchase additional VIP Cards to increase the votes of those they support. A normal voting period for each round is probably about 10 days.




As you can see from the 1st pictures you can get 121 votes for buying 1 vip card and the person who receives ur vip card can vote 11 times as well

In the second picture you can see one of the girls(currently ranked 2nd) having 2.1 million votes in just 53 minutes of a day as the daily votes reset at 12am.

Given that 1 card of 121 votes is 18 yuan. About 17000 cards are purchased. Thats 64 000 dollars earned in just 53 minutes. The variable cost of these votes is possibly 0 or close to 0 as these are virtual items that do not have 'raw materials'. You just have fixed cost in running these servers.

Initially when the competition started i was really sceptical about whether the show will get people to vote and spend. However as the days gone on i realised that this show has pretty much turned out to be a success in generating revenue despite the huge cost involved in running the show. The 1st place had 40 million votes over a span of a week in one of the rounds.
At a conservative estimate if 30 million votes are obtained via purchasing of cards, roughly $930 000 Sgd is spent.

With regards to how this competition has brought in the revenue, i am very very amazed and impressed.

Quick Conclusion of my thoughts

-How online game/platform attract more players to play and pay as well as viewers to watch and pay is important and to me is 1 of the ways to see how well a company is run
- Games that used to be famous can lose popularity and result in the companies to be badly affected if they are unable to come up with new products that can replace these lost in revenue
- Good content is very important, just like how someone would not buy a rotten apple on display at the supermarket, one will not be willing to pay for the content/ spend money in the game or to support their idol (in the case of produce 101) if the content of the show/game is very bad and does not appeal to the potential spenders.

Monday, 4 June 2018

My thoughts on astrea IV bond

*Disclaimer- Do note that the content in this blog are my views and analysis in this post and they could be inaccurate.



In case you have not read the prospectus, you can find it here.

According to the article, the retail bonds of class A1 could be offered at 4.625%. These retail bonds will be allowed to trade in the market.

From the prospectus, most of its Private equity investment comes from buyouts(86.1% of NAV).

Buyouts are usually leveraged (which means they take on huge debts) to buy out companies and run these companies as a private entity. Usually with the huge use of manageable debt and frequent board meetings since they are private entities, the company is able to bring in the returns for the private equity funds in the form of  IRR (Internal rate of return)

Investors are investing into these private equity companies' future cash flows. The cash flows would flow in tranches to Class A-1, then Class A-2 then Class B then to the Equity tranche. There would be 36 private equity funds involved in 596 Investee Companies with each company's Nav no larger than 3%.

Pros of the bond

1. Ownership
The equity tranche of the bond is held by the sponsor.  The highest risk tranche is held by the sponsor and not sold off which could be a show of faith in the assets of the private equity fund. Being the equity tranche, it would only receive the distributions last after all other classes have received what they ought to get as stated in the books. The equity tranche would also get their repayments last.

2. Major holding's performance
Performance of its 3 major fund has been encouraging. According to CalPERS, as of 30 September 2017 its fund performance are as follows.




All funds have been positive in returns and have a Net IRR of  >10% which i do think that its impressive. Furthermore, Silver Lake is in its initial stage as its vintage year is in 2013. This means that there could be further growth coming out from it.



Cons of the bond

1. Possible dead-weight private equity funds
A private equity fund has a rough timeline of around 10 years before exiting its investments and returning the cash to its investors. Which is why u see I II III IV V VI in its names. It is a representation of the 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th of the private equity funds.
One method of exit for Private equity funds will be to IPO these companies. However, in the portfolio, 25.9% of it actually have been around for 10 years and above. With 8.4% of the portfolio being 12 or more years. It seems like these funds could be a 'dead-weight' where an exit strategy could not be found and would be a worry.

2. Fees
As the portfolio consist of 36 private equity funds, effectively we are paying 36 times of management fee to these funds to manage these assets and the cash flow that we would get would actually be a residual of the profits subtracted by these fees. One might wonder what are the fees involved in a private equity fund, some clue can be located here.
On top of these fees charged by the private equity, there would be a management fee of  0.175% of Portfolio NAV per 6 months by Azalea. This fee along with other fees like liquidity facility payments are deducted from the cash flows by the private equity funds and the remainder would be given to the tranches. The exact structure can be found in page 120/306 of the prospectus.

3. Lack of Disclosure of its Investments
As the name private suggest, investors have little idea what are the funds investing in. This makes it difficult for investors to track the returns of such funds. This information asymmetry might not aid them well in making decisions should there be a sudden change in the traded price of its bonds.

4. Are companies mature?
In its prospectus its stated that the weighted average of fund age is 7 years. Mature funds exposure are more cash flow generative. However the initial stage of a PE fund could take 2-5+ years depending on which website u look for definitions. From Calpers it would be 2013 and later. In this portfolio, most of its fund's vintage years are in 2011,2012,2013,2014. With 2013 and 2014 accounting for 33.4% of NAV.
The weighted average of funds can be a double edged sword. Too early and we might not see any cash flows coming from the funds. Too late we could be seeing repayments faster which might affect future cash flows. The good thing for A-1 bond holders will be that there will be no redemption of the bond before the scheduled call date in 2023.(Page  52/306)



Conclusion
Personally I do think that if issued at par, the yield of 4.625% is actually pretty decent for the next 5 years. The track record of the top 3 funds are also pretty encouraging alongside sponsor holding the most risky tranche.
However, the thought of the many fees involved does not seem to entice me and although this might trade better than some retail bonds like Frasers 3.65% bond, investors are betting on the PE funds being successful and able to replicate the performance they have done while being unable to track the investments on their own, unlike Frasers Property Limited for example which is listed and has a balance sheet that investors can refer to. Investors are unable to assess the debt of these companies owned by the private equity funds
This lack of information could be seen as one of the few reasons why this astrea IV bond would be priced at a yield much higher than some listed company's bonds.

Personally I am not a bond investor hence it is highly unlikely i would subscribe to the retail offering.