Rahul Sachitanand
Feb 27, 2020

Sina Corp ad revenue down 5% for Q4, media business also hit

Hit by COVID-19 breakout, company declines to provide 2020 forecast.

Even though Weibo user numbers crossed 500 million, the unit struggled to grow revenues
Even though Weibo user numbers crossed 500 million, the unit struggled to grow revenues

It was a mixed quarter for Sina Corp, the Chinese media and internet company that is a majority owner of Weibo, the popular microblogging service in the country. Buffeted by a decline in Weibo and portal advertising revenues as well as negative currency translation impact, advertising revenue fell for the fourth quarter by 5% to $460.9 million, even as non-advertising revenue grew 49% to $132.5 million for the same quarter. 

Sina Corp's net loss attributable to Sina for the fourth quarter was $175.45 million, compared to net income of $16.38 million in the same quarter of the last fiscal. For financial year 2019, net revenues increased 3% year-over-year to $2.16 billion, but the company also went from profits of $125.5 million to losses of $70.5 million for this period. In a tough year, advertising revenues decreased 3% year-over-year to $1.74 billion, even as gross margins were flat to slightly down for the company. 

In the latest quarter, Weibo's user base crossed 500 million. MAUs reached 560 million in December 2019, adding approximately 54 million users on a year-over-year basis. "Average DAUs reached 222 million in December, and we are particularly excited to note even more robust growth in engagement metrics such as usage frequency, feed refreshments and the daily video views," Bonnie Yi Zhang, chief financial officer, told analysts on a post-results call. 

The company's stock fell almost 9% on the annoucements of these results, but regained some of these losses. 

Any shine from the user statistics was dulled by the struggles of Weibo and Sina Corp overall in growing revenue. Weibo's key accounts business decreased 7%, or 6% on a constant currency basis, primarily dragged by a cutback in cross-border transaction revenue and the reduction of handset shipments. Sina also struggled to grow its advertising revenue from entertainment companies and small businesses in this quarter. 

Other businsses struggled too. While the company's media properties continued to expand user base, with the average DAUs for the Sina News app and the Sina finance app growing approximately 26% and 88%, respectively, on a year-over-year basis, revenue growth was a challenge. Portal ad revenue for the fourth quarter was $56.5 million, a decrease of 16%. Full year 2019 portal ad revenue fell 25%, or 22% on a constant currency basis, mainly resulting from ad budget cutbacks by SME customers, as well as certain brand industries such as automobile and Internet services, Zhang noted.

Like the rest of its peers in China, The Chinese media and internet company Sina declared its financial results in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak that precluded it from providing any finacial forecasts for the coming quarter. "Heading into 2020, we will continue to navigate through the uncertainties from both the demand and supply sides of the advertising market, and diversified revenue stream in response to the market challenges," Zhang added. " We anticipate a near-term downside risk from the evolving situation of the coronavirus outbreak in China."

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