Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

GDS Holdings Limited (NASDAQ:GDS)
Q2 2019 Earnings Call
Aug 13, 2019, 8:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by for the GDS Holdings Limited Second Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I will now turn the call over to your host, Ms. Laura Chen, Head of Investor Relations for the Company. Please go ahead, Laura.

Laura Chen -- Head of Investor Relations

Thank you, operator. Hello everyone, welcome to 2Q 2019 earnings conference call of GDS Holdings Limited. The Company's results were issued via newswire services earlier today and are posted online. A summary presentation, which we will refer to during this conference call, can be viewed and downloaded from our IR website at investors.gds-services.com.

Leading today's call is Mr. William Huang, GDS' Founder, Chairman and CEO, who will provide an overview of our business strategy and performance. Mr. Dan Newman, GDS' CFO, will then review the financial and operating results. Before we continue, please note that today's discussion will contain forward-looking statements made under the Safe Harbor provisions of the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties. As such, the Company's results may be materially different from the views expressed today. Further information regarding these and other risks and uncertainties is included in the Company's perspective, as filed with the US SEC.

The Company does not assume any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, except as required under applicable law. Please also note the GDS earnings press release and this conference call include discussions of unaudited GAAP financial information as well as unaudited non-GAAP financial measures. GDS press release contains a reconciliation of the unaudited non-GAAP measures to the unaudited most directly comparable GAAP measures.

I will now turn the call over to GDS' Founder, Chairman and CEO, William Huang. Please go ahead, William.

William Wei Huang -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Laura. Hello, everyone. This is William. Thank you for joining us on today's call. I'm pleased to report another good quarter with strong results across all aspects of our business. In the second quarter we signed up customers for almost 21,000 square meter of net additional area committed or around 52 megawatt of IT power, which should generate over $90 million of annual recurring revenue when fully delivered. Maintaining data center supply in tier 1 markets continue to be a critical success fact. We made a significant progress in securing key resource, both organically and inorganically enabling us to maintain our resource advantage.

During this quarter, we initiated three new projects and today we are announcing another new acquisition. We continue to deliver operationaly resulting in over 50% service revenue growth and over 80% adjusted EBITDA growth year-on-year. Our utilization rate moved up to 70% which drew our NOI margin to 53% and adjusted EBITDA margin to 43.5%, putting us well ahead of the guidance track. Last but not least, we are particularly excited about our new strategic partnership with GIC, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund to develop and operate build-to-suit data center, initially focus focusing our program for one of our top customers.

This is a milestone achievement, both from a business and from a financing perspective. During the second quarter, we -- our new business is up with the run rate for the past six quarters. We did two big deals, up over 20 megawatts each, with two existing hyperscale customers. We also did a one deal over 5 megawatt from a brand new large enterprise customer, a market leader in China providing smartphone solutions. We are in a period, when there are all kinds of macro effects, which may affect the market. We do not know how long it is going to last and where it will go. However, the digital economy in China is still strong. According to the IDC research, AIs [Phonetic] in China is growing at 86% year-on-year. And there is a forecast to grow at 45% CAGR over the next five years.

China has now become the second largest cloud market globally. 90% of the China cloud market is local CFPs [Phonetic]. Each of our cloud customers is competing with each other intensely for a bigger piece of the market. Everyone understands that this is the ground, they have to win in order to win the future. From the bottom up perspective, we have a solid sales pipeline from an increasingly diversified customer base, which gives us good visibility for the coming quarters. We remain confident of achieving our target of around 80,000 square meter net additional area committed for this year and the pipeline is building nicely for next year.

As you are aware, it has become more and more difficult to get approval for new projects in tier 1 markets. As a result, supply is constrained. To deal with this challenge, we have evolved our resource strategy. We keep looking for new opportunities within metro areas, while also taking steps to secure highly strategic sites at the edge of time. We have made significant progress on both comps, particularly in Beijing, which is the largest market in China. During the second quarter, we initiated one new project in the metro area of Beijing and the two new projects in Langfang at the edge of Beijing.

Our Langfang land purchase, which we disclosed last quarter has attracted great customer interest. We recently commenced construction of the first building on this greenfield site and we are expecting to obtain pre-commitments very soon. The Langfang land will cost us around $30 million in total, which is a relatively small up -- front up only. It comes with over 240 megawatt of the total power supply, which will enable us to create a lot of value.

We have today signed an agreement for the acquisition of a data center, which we call the Beijing 9 located in [Indecipherable] primary data center hub, very close to our Beijing 1, 2, 3 cluster. Beijing 9 has an IT area of around 8,000 square meter and is fully committed and stabilized, The enterprise value is at RMB693 million. We target closing by the end of this year. With growing demand from customers, we believe that metro data center like Beijing 9 will become more valuable.

We believe that the resource we are building up in Beijing metro and edge of town [Phonetic] will position us to future increase, our market share in China's largest market. We are very pleased to announce today our new tie-up with GIC, the partner of choice in the data center industry. Our business is strategically positioned to fulfill the requirements of the most demanding customers from all sorts of data center capacity in tier 1 markets, where there is a high barrier to enter and the supply is scarce. However, we recognized that our large internet and the cloud service provider customers also require some substantial capacity at the locations outside of tier 1 markets to host the less latency sensitive data and the applications.

In the past, customers typically develop such capacity in-house, but are now actively seeking ways to outsource this part of their requirement as well. Our first story is the three build-to-suit data centers in Hebei. We gained did a full one of our top customers last year. We gained experience from these projects and the outcome is highly successful.

Since then we have being proactively seeking an approach which will enable us to do more for our customers outside of tier 1 market. While leveraging our professional skills, generating additional earnings and continuing to prioritize capital allocation to tier 1 market, the partnership with GIC is a solution we found. It is indeed a three way partnership with strong investment by our customer. It makes us even more unique. In that we are able to serve our customers wherever and whenever.

With that I will hand over to Dan for the financial and operating review. Thank you.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, William. Starting on slide 12. When we strip out the contribution from equipment sales in the effect of FX changes we see even stronger growth in margin improvement that is apparent in the reported numbers. In 2Q '19 our service revenue grew by 10.6% underlying adjusted EBIT NOI grew by 14.1% and underlying adjusted EBITDA grew by 15.2% in consecutive quarters. Our underlying adjusted NOI margin reached 53% and our underlying adjusted EBITDA margin hit 44.3% which is 9% points higher than a year ago.

Turning to slide 13, with two quarters completed, our revenue is well up with our expectations having reached 46.9% at the midpoint of our original guidance. Service revenue growth is driven mainly by customers moving into the space, which they previously committed. Move-in during the first half, totaled 18,781 square meters. We're expecting move-in during the second half to be slightly higher than in the first half, on top of which we will have additional revenue generating capacity from Beijing 9 when the acquisition closes.

Our MSR has been pretty much flat over the past few quarters. However, we are expecting a 1% or 2% point drop over the next couple of quarters. The decline over the course of 2019, maybe slightly less than we were previously expecting.

Slide 14, shows the quarterly trend in margin improvement at the underlying adjusted NOI and EBITDA levels. Most of the recent margin improvement has been at the data center level. Last year we scaled out our operations materially. Now we are seeing the operating leverage on the enlarged base. In the next couple of quarters, we're expecting the NOI margin to stay at around the current level, because we have a lot of new capacity coming into service which will lead to a step-up in fixed costs.

For reference, we brought an additional 20,000 square meters into service in first half '19 and as shown on slide 17, we will bring a further 40,000 square meters into service in second half '19 not including the Guangzhou 6 and Beijing 9 acquisitions. We are continuously realizing operating leverage on SG&A, hence the EBITDA level we could see some further margin improvement in the second half.

Turning to slide 17, in the first half of the year, our capex is around RMB1.4 billion versus our full year guidance of RMB4.5 billion to RMB5 billion. Our capex will pick up in the second half '19 with ongoing construction and payments due for acquisitions. We still expect full year'19 capex to be within our guidance range. On slide 18, currently, the debt capital market environment in China is exceptionally favorable for us and we are taking advantage of this to get longer and cheaper facilities. We are also refinancing out some foreign bank loans, so that we can keep that capacity and reserve to use for the situations, which may take longer with local banks, such as acquisition financing. Our policy has always been to minimize FX exposures, GDS business is wellness entirely RMB denominated across revenue opex and capex with a small exception of our Hong Kong operations.

In the income statement, we book small translation gains and losses each quarter as a result of moving US dollars onshore and when permitted converting it into RMB. With regard to the balance sheet, 80% of our debt is denominated in RMB. Out of the 20%, which is not RMB most of it relates to the convertible bond, which we issued in May 2018 and which we hope will one day become equity. We only have $118 million in term loans denominated in US dollars and our strategy is to keep foreign currency borrowing to a minimum.

Turning to slide 19, I'd like to add to what William said about our GIC partnership. To begin with, we have signed a binding MOU with one of our largest customers for seven build-to-suit data centers at three campuses to be developed over the next couple of years. The number of projects can change. It is up to the customer. We are certainly opened, doing a lot more. The fact of this program is concentrated on a few sites, makes it very practical for us. Under the agreement with GIC, when these projects complete, we will offer them one by one for GIC to acquire a 90% equity interest. The acquisition price is designed for us to recover our development cost including the financing element.

We will retain our 10% equity interest and provide management and operating services. Over the life of the project, we will earn a return from our equity investment, plus recurring service fees. It may not be all that meaningful to talk about return on equity, when our equity participation is relatively small. But on this metric, these projects should look very good. In terms of accounting, the service fees will come in at the top line and we will account for the equity interest as an associate as we have one board seat, out of three. Initially we will bear the capex to each project, which could be in the order of a few RMB100 million, which will then be reversed when we sell the 90% equity interest.

Typical project size is around 5,000 square meters to 70,000 square meters per data center. We already have one project under construction, which we expect to complete and save a 90% equity interest to GIC before year-end. Believe me, it is very complicated and challenging to establish a partnership like this in China. It has taken 18 months and require great commitment from GIC for our anchor customer and last but not least, from our team led by our COO, Jamie Khoo.

I'm really proud of this achievement and grateful to our partners. It is a great solution to financing build-to-suit data centers in remote areas. But more than that, we believe that the ability to access this kind of capital will be a great strategic value to us, as we develop our franchise.

Getting back to slide 20. Our backlog consists of binding commitments from customers, is increased again to over 93,000 square meters, representing 74% of our current utilized capacity. It provides high visibility to our future growth.

Our backlog is almost entirely made up of large orders from hyperscale customers. They are all very high quality counterparties and household names. 55% of the backlog relates to data centers which are currently under construction. 55% is the highest proportion it has ever been, over the past 12 quarters, it was typically 30% to 40%. The reason why the proportion has increased, is because our customers are pre-committing earlier and because we have a larger number of greenfield projects, which take longer to build.

To finish on slide 22, for FY '19, we are well on track in terms of revenue relative to our guidance and therefore we are raising the bottom end of the guidance range to the mid-point of the guidance range, while leaving the top end unchanged. Our EBITDA growth has been so strong, so we are raising the bottom end of the guidance range by 7.3%, so that it is above the top end of the original guidance range and we are raising the top end by 5.9%. With regard to capex, we will keep the original range unchanged.

With that I will end the formal part of my presentation. We'd now like to open the call to questions. Operator?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you, sir. Ladies and gentlemen we will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] We have the first question from the line of Jonathan Atkin from RBC. Please ask your question.

Jonathan Atkin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks. So I have two questions, one, kind of on the topic of M&A and I wondered, Beijing 9 which you announced, what does the pipeline look like over the next several quarters for additional tuck-in acquisitions and would they be on roughly this sort of same scale of 8,000 square meters or would it be markedly larger going forward? And then on the GIC arrangement, I wondered how soon you would anticipate commencing any additional projects under the JV in addition to what you've already agreed upon in Jiangsu Province. Thanks.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Jon. It's Dan here. Firstly on M&A, in the past, our business plan for this year was to do -- want to do M&A transactions and we've now announced two. By the way, Guangzhou 6 is not yet closed, hopefully will close in the next few weeks. Beijing 9 will close very late in the year. We have an M&A team. We identify a number of targets. We've done diligence on quite a few data centers and we are very selective and we're financially disciplined. We find relatively few that we want to move forward with. I think we can sustain one to two deals like the Beijing 9 deal that order of magnitude per annum. However I would highlight that from time-to-time, larger opportunities come along, and Guangzhou 6 and Beijing 9 being acquired from the same seller, second tier data center operator which had a portfolio with more than 10 data centers. We diligence them all and we found 2 out of 10 that we wanted to move forward with.

Right now, there -- monitor [Phonetic] situations in the market for small portfolios of data centers or single data center campuses, but there is no certainty about whether we will proceed with those, but just to give you some color in terms of the kind of opportunity which is out there. With regard to GIC maybe didn't make ourselves quite clear, we have signed an MOU with one of our largest customers. Now under that MOU, we are committed to develop seven data centers at three campuses, so that means three locations, we mentioned one location in Jiangsu, the other two locations in other parts of China. And those seven data centers instantly aggregate over 130 megawatts of IT power. So that's the extent of the commitment under that MOU right now, but we expect the same customer to have substantially more requirement than that and over time, expect the scale of what we undertake through this partnership to increase.

We're also in early stage, but in discussions with three or four other customers who have their own equivalent campuses in remote areas and who are all following the trend of seeking to outsource. We're not close to doing anything, but the opportunity is there to expand this to other customers as well. Does that answer your question?

Jonathan Atkin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yes, it does. Thank you. And then just kind of a commercial question, I think you entered this year with maybe 6% to 7% of your area committed, coming up for renewal in calendar '19. And can you maybe provide an update on what you've seen in terms of customer behavior, as they renew contracts, maybe they depart for various reasons? Are you seeing any sort of customer churn beyond the traditional run rate that you have seen and/or the contract lengths that you're signing within our prices and with hyperscalers, relatively the same as what we've seen or has there been any changes? Thank you.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, Jon. We already mentioned churn, because fortunately for us, it's statistically insignificant. In the last quarter, it was 0.2%. Occasionally just every few quarters there may be a churn event which results from change in our customers' own organization or operations, but there isn't sufficient churn to be able to characterize it in any way. With regard to contract lengths, yeah, most of the hyperscale deals now are in the 6 to 10 year band [Phonetic], actually most are in the 8 to 10 year band. And I just take this opportunity to make a comment, when these contracts are signed is almost invariably pre-commitment. These days, quite often pre-commitment, one year before the data center comes into service. Some of the contracts have no right of early termination for the customer to terminate early at any time over the life of the contracts, except to cause, if there is a serious failure in performance. The other contracts where they do have an early termination right is typically only kicks in after the end of the move-in period. So that would be say, two years after the beginning of the service delivery and then there is a very severe penalties 0.1% [Phonetic] of the total contract value. So our backlog really is very solid in terms of underpinning our growth.

Jonathan Atkin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thanks. And maybe a question for William, on the -- in terms of just demand trends that you're seeing, whether it's gaming or AI, cloud, social networking or enterprise, but any -- any particular industry verticals or types of companies where you're seeing demand trends notably different than three months ago?

William Wei Huang -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. So far we didn't see any change right, especially our customer base. And, but what we can tell is AI is overwhelming to deploy in the different vertical right now. So I think that that's why our customer, they have diminished the power capacity -- each order, I mean the size is much bigger than before. Yeah. So I think the current -- skewed the three key drivers in our view is that. Power is still the number one driver and the second is Internet company. And enterprise especially, the financial institution still maintain very strong demand right now and the demand profile is single order is much bigger than before.

Jonathan Atkin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator Instruction] We have the next question from the line of Yang Liu, Morgan Stanley. Please ask your question.

Yang Liu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thanks for the opportunity to ask questions. The first one, I think Dan, just mentioned that the debt financing environment is quite favorable for GDS now. Could you please give us some numbers in term of the current net interest rate or refinance interest rate compared with the previous term from the banks? The second question is when GIC acquire the 90% stake of the build-to-suit data centers, what is the premium in term of the valuation compared with the cost of GDS? Thank you.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Hi, Yang, it's Dan again. First of all on -- in the current cost of debt, we've done some refinancing of data centers recently with Chinese banks and in fact new relationships and we've also done financial lease. And the all in costs came to less than 6%, which is 0.75% [Phonetic] and almost 1 percentage point lower than it was a few quarters ago. But I stress, that is for refinancing of the data centers, where we would expect to get a slightly lower price. We also got longer tenants. We've got 8 and 10 year tenants, which is quite exceptional to project term loans, with back-ended amortization. So really just about as good as it gets, I think, you asked about the premium that we pay for acquisitions, in a way, Yang, you can figure it out, right, because it cost us about $5 to get $1 of EBITDA. When we do these acquisitions, it costs about $8 to get $1 of EBITDA. And so you see the premium is around 50%, but in some ways, it's kind of academic, because we've done the acquisitions because there hasn't been an opportunity for us to do the project organically. Sorry, Yang. Sorry -- pointing out, sorry. I think, sorry, can you repeat the question? Someone was talking to you, when you were asking the question?

William Wei Huang -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yang, can you repeat the second question? Hello.

Operator

[Operator Instructions]

Laura Chen -- Head of Investor Relations

Operator, can we just finish answering the questions.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Sorry, excuse me. So, if I understand correctly, the question was, what is the premium when we sell equity interest in a project build-to-suit project to GIC? Yeah. The premium is 8%, but if we've incurred financing during the construction phase, that will enable us to recover our financing costs.

Operator

Mr. Yang, your line is open, sir.

Yang Liu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

I have finished my questions. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have the next question from the line of Frank Louthan from Raymond James. Please ask your question.

Frank Louthan -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Great, thank you. There is a current guidance that you've given out. Does that include anything for the build-to-suit projects with GIC, either on the revenue or the capex side? And then secondly, you generally get a rolling of your customers' business over a several year period, update throughout the year, any change in how they're looking at their business over the next few years going forward, based on the current US trade situation? Thank you.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Hi, Frank. The guidance does includes the capex for the assets, the build-to-suit assets that we are incubating if you like during the construction period, but it's only a few hundred million. In terms of income statement, once we transfer 90% equity interest, the data centers come into service, during the first year, the customer is moving in and has some flexibility about how fast they move in. So we will be recognizing any significant service fees probably until 9 or 12 months, after the data center comes into service. So there will always be that time lag for when we complete the project. Just going back to my previous answer about the capex, of course, when we transfer the 90% equity interest to GIC, the capex that we've incurred will then be reversed or 90% of it will be reversed.

William Wei Huang -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Frank, the second question is customer's rolling demand, right. So I think typically the big customer will assure the three years demand to us, so especially with the larger call in Internet company. So we are pretty focused on that -- keep talk to them, and regularly. Yeah.

Frank Louthan -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Okay, thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have the next question from the line of Robert Gutman from Guggenheim Securities. Please ask your question.

Robert Gutman -- Guggenheim Securities -- Analyst

Thanks for taking the question. So just curious on the MSR which is looking better than you had originally anticipated. I think guidance for the year was a decline of 5% year-over-year. What's underlying the fact that it's coming in a little better?

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Rob, when we talked about 5%, I was talking about 4Q '18 to 4Q '19. I talked about 5%, hoped, it was going to be a little bit less. And I'm hopeful, it will be a little bit less. When we look at the average MSR for the whole of 2019 compared with the average MSR for the whole of 2018, we're still looking at something close to about a 5% year-on-year decline if you calculate it that way.

Robert Gutman -- Guggenheim Securities -- Analyst

Okay. Thank you. And then just in terms of the strong results in the quarter in terms of revenue, would you say it was more from sort of just faster move-ins and sort of a pull forward or was it greater than expected sales in the quarter with the media commencements?

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Actually, Rob, the revenue was pretty much what we were expecting internally and is tracking the top half of guidance at least and that was -- that's what we forecast? What is surprising was -- which even surprised us was, it was the profit, the EBITDA, the NOI growth, the amount of operating leverage we've been able to realize, that did exceed, that has exceeded our own expectations.

Last year we, I think increased the headcount by 20% to 25%, because our business has gone from 40,000 square meter net add business to an 80,000 square meter net add business on an annual basis. So we had to scale up to take account of that. And then since early this year, we've clearly increased our operating cost base and that's why it's come through in very sharp margin improvement.

Robert Gutman -- Guggenheim Securities -- Analyst

Great. Thank you very much.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We have the next question from the line of Gokul Hariharan from J.P. Morgan. Please ask your question.

Gokul Hariharan -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Yeah, hi. Thanks for taking my question. My first question, Dan, could you talk little bit about how much further operating leverage that is likely to happen over the next year or so, given, you've seen a pretty strong operating leverage improvement over the last four to five quarters? Second question I have is maybe for Dan and William, when you talk about 80,000 square meter pipeline capability in terms of every year potential, new pipeline coming in and the ability to prospect that and build it out, now with this GIC partnership also, would that number start to go up and be largely dedicated to tier 1 and satellite [Phonetic] sites or would some of the purpose-built site also included in this 80,000 square meter ability to furnish each year.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Gokul, we took a lot of operating leverage. We always look at it at two levels. Firstly, the data center level, where we look at the margin for the data center is stabilized and activity, I'd say it's 55% of course, it's a little bit higher than that. And then we have the dilution effect, or dampening effect from data centers, which are ramping up and over time, as the balance has shifted to greater proportion, being stabilized, that's been raising the margin. And I think over the next, you said over the next few quarters, because I think, the next couple of quarters, I expect the NOI margin to stay around the current level. And go into next year, we could be looking at least another bond to 2 percentage point improvement. I think, we took operating leverage at the SG&A level. I mean my ambition is to get SG&A down to 5% of revenue, because that's lower than any data center operator, has ever disclosed, right.

So that would indicate that we've got 3% to 4% still to go. But that will take some time, but I think we continue to make steady progress in that direction. The second question about the 80,000 square meters. Let me make sure I understood correctly, and then -- give the wrong answer again. And the 80,000 square meters refers to what we do in our -- in tier 1 markets. I'm not -- we're not including the first project or the future projects that we undertake through this joint venture in that 80,000 square meter number. If we did, I would be adding another 7,000 square meters to our -- were replenished [Phonetic], because that's what we have in project number one in Jiangsu. So that's not been in any numbers that we've talked about before, it's entirely additive.

Gokul Hariharan -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Understood. So just wanted to ask, is there any discussion or any interest in some kind of partnership like there for some of your satellite to tier 1 kind of city projects as well or it's something that on an economic basis, GDS feels that it's better serve through, actually pull through them on its own.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Well, you know, our business plan and our capital raising is based on what we see in tier 1 markets. I think we're well capitalized for the opportunity in tier 1 markets. But as I commented during the presentation, a lot of work went into developing the structure for this partnership with GIC and large customers. William said, it's really a three-way partnership. The customer had to provide -- had to accommodate as well. And having done it now, but adapted specifically for these build-to-suit projects in remote areas, yeah, it's certainly something that is in the back of our minds that we could deploy a similar structure, potentially with different ownership level. We could be deployed with us having a majority, consolidating. We could do it with us having a larger state, but conceptually, it's the same. It's the differential return as a result of having an equity investment, plus a management and operating fee.

I think in this industry, given that a very large part of the demand is coming from aggressively shortlist 15, 20 very large customers, it's important to be able to access the lowest cost equity capital. And that's not always the public equity market. So having established channel, of course, establishing our partnership with a brilliant partner, GIC, I think that positions us very well to be able to look at our requirements and see whether it's best to use our own equity, effectively comes from the public equity markets or whether it's best to use the equity of a partner like GIC. So I don't rule that out at all in future, but it's not something, that we're specifically contemplating in terms of any actual situation right now.

Gokul Hariharan -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Okay. Just if I may ask a little bit more on the demand situation, I think previous caller alluded to your view on the demand. A lot of your customers on the hyperscale side have had tough situation in their current businesses. The future businesses are still growing, so how -- has any of that will be played into any of the capacity planning discussion like ones that are in discussions, that you've had with them and also from GDS own perspective, how do you handicap any of those kind of -- confirm into future planning?

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Let me just summarize what William [Phonetic] said. This was asking, because of the supposedly -- things of the hyperscale customers in China may be having some challenges in their own cloud businesses, that may or may not be correct, but does that come through in terms of what we see with resource capacity planning? Any changes in capacity planning, and how do we adapt to that?

William Wei Huang -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I think currently our -- what we do commit to the market is 80,000 square meter, right. We can repeat that. That's what we are having seen. Right, I think this will not change. And because we have very, very strong customer base and our customer base and our customer base come from the different vertical. And even in the client side, we have the -- all kind of the clients in China. So I think our customer base or whatever from the vertical point of view or industrial point of view, we are quite diversified. That's how we manage our demand and certainty and our -- so that, I have to say we will not change our capex plan. Another was, we are comfortable to deliver another 80,000 every year.

Operator

We have the next question from the line of Colin McCallum from Credit Suisse. Please ask your question.

Colin McCallum -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Thanks for the opportunity. Hopefully you guys can hear me OK. Actually I have just two question for you. It's kind of fundamental growth. I'm just wondering, on this GIC transaction, why would we choose to do it this way, only be taken a 10% stake, plus service fee on the GDS side, is it you alluded, a couple of times to remove very less -- is it, that you view this? These areas or the risk attached to these areas or this customer in particular being well above what you think your public shareholders have kind of signed up for, or is an issue just with finance squeezing or return that you would expect from these data centers, because you kind of suggested that the returns -- in any way that the customers' reliable for the rest will be so bad and you've said earlier on the financing side is very favorable at the moment. So just treat -- why you've decided to do this, particularly with really such a small equity stake for the shareholders of the current shareholders of the business.

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Colin. Good question. First of all, let's be clear, the kind of project, we're talking about is totally different from our mainstream business. These are build-to-suit projects on sites where, in this case with typically the customer actually owns the real state, owns the power infrastructure and is outsourcing the design, the construction fitting out and the long-term operation of the data center. So in that respect, it's a different product entirely, it's a build-to-suit data center at a customer's site.

Secondly, we look at the -- the quantum or the volume. I've always said that our value is in fulfilling customers' requirement for somewhere to locate their latency sensitive data and applications. Customers have a huge requirement, which is not latency sensitive as well. So the volume of what gets, put into remote locations is very substantial. And our customers are asking us to follow them that and that's not part of our business plan, is not part of what I said earlier, it's not part of what we've planned for in terms of our capital raising. It requires a lot of additional capital. And for relationship reasons, we won't to be able to do this and nobody else can do it. If we can do this, as well as what we're doing in tier 1 markets, that gives us even more edge and to use a term, even greater note.

And the third point is about, yeah, undeniably it's about the financial returns. We started off doing three projects for our customer in Hebei, of course, in this kind of situation, the customer wants to outsource, but the pricing is low and the returns are lower, in the case of Hebei, we made it work from a financial perspective, by doing it entirely with debt, senior debt and mezzanine debt and the projects worked out very well and we got a very good spread over our cost of capital, but it was very time consuming to do that financing and we have to be sensitive about all that leverage, which gets consolidated on our balance sheet.

So we started looking around to see if there was, first of all, if there was a better way of doing these projects, specifically of balance sheet, which was replicatable, where we could scale up, where we could have the capacity to do as much as the customer wants. And we spoke to a range of different investors and the proposal, that we received from GIC, was the best one. We have a significant operational involvement. We must have a significant operational involvement. So we wanted to maximize the fee income, look at it really is a -- managed project, but for the sake of a partnership and sake of the customer, it's important to add some equity and more involvement and 10% was a number that we and our partner and our customer was comfortable with. There is no particular magic about 10%, but that's where -- that's where it came out.

Colin McCallum -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Understood. No, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, as there are no further questions, I'd like to now turn the call back to the Company for closing remarks.

Laura Chen -- Head of Investor Relations

Thank you, once again everyone for joining us today. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact GDS Investor Relations through the contact information on website or the Piacente Group Investor Relations. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 57 minutes

Call participants:

Laura Chen -- Head of Investor Relations

William Wei Huang -- Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Daniel Newman -- Chief Financial Officer

Jonathan Atkin -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yang Liu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Frank Louthan -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Robert Gutman -- Guggenheim Securities -- Analyst

Gokul Hariharan -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Colin McCallum -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

More GDS analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo