Logo of jester cap with thought bubble.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

21Vianet Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:VNET)
Q3 2019 Earnings Call
Nov 19, 2019, 8:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and welcome to 21Vianet Group's Third Quarter 2019 Earnings Conference Call.

[Operator Instructions]

With us today are Mr. Alvin Wang, Chief Executive Officer and President; Ms. Sharon Liu, Chief Financial Officer; and Ms. Rene Jiang, Investor Relations Director of the Company.

I will now turn the call over to the first speaker today, Ms. Rene Jiang, IR Director of 21Vianet. Please go ahead, ma'am.

Rene Jiang -- Director of Investor Relations

Hello, everyone. Welcome to our third quarter 2019 earnings call. Before we start, please note that this call may contain forward-looking statements, made pursuant to the Safe Harbor Provisions for the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These forward-looking statements are based on management's current expectations and observations that involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors not under the management -- the company's control, which may cause actual results, performance or achievements of the company to be materially different from the results, performance or expectations implied by these forward-looking statements.

Forward-looking statements are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statement, risk factors and details of the company's filings with the SEC. 21Vianet undertakes no duty to revise or update any forward-looking statements for selected events or circumstances after the date of this conference call.

I will now turn the call over to Mr. Alvin Wang, CEO and President of 21Vianet.

Shiqi Wang -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you Rene. Good morning and good evening everyone. Thank you for joining us on our earnings call today. In the third quarter of 2019, we grew our revenues to RMB981 million and adjusted EBITDA to RMB272.5 million. Both of which exceeded the high end of our previous guidance range.

Our adjusted EBITDA margin was 27.8% compared to 28.2% in the same period last year. This growth demonstrates both resilient customer demand and our progress in these three areas. Timely capture of the growing and changing market demand for IDC; continuous refinements of the product portfolio and the value propositions; prudent expansion of the capacity pipeline in anticipation of rising demands. First sparking [Phonetic] the current macro headwind, the domestic IDC market is growing rapidly as a result of ongoing demand for hosting and cloud computing. In line with these trends, recent industry surveys by the IDC Trend Research Center suggested that more than half of the companies surveyed, consider IDC services, a long-term investment priority, not subordinates proposed cost-control measures.

Some findings validates our own experience in IDC industry, as we have witnessed large scale Internet and Cloud and the projects and accelerating their expansion of cabinet capacity to better accommodate their surviving Internet data traffic and the cloud computing needs. Meanwhile, recognizing the need to digitalize their operations, traditional companies are also increasing their demand for scalable and customized IT solutions. To capture these growth trends and to attract more large scale clients, we have vastly leveraged, our industry leadership, technological know-how, domain activities and the brand equity.

Our partnership with Alibaba in October 2019, exemplifies our industry recognition and demonstrates our strong value proposition through industry giants. We plan to explore additional, collaboration opportunities with Alibaba for its -- expansion.

We also see potential for replicating such strategic partnership with other last scale clients going forward. In addition to obtain the wholesale clients, we are also refining our IDC offerings to increase our appeal to retail clients. As a result, during the third quarter, we were able to provide retail IDC solutions to a diverse group of clients, such as COFCO, China Oil and Food Corporation, a nationwide state owned enterprise and Fuku [Phonetic]. Our online retailer traded on Nasdaq. As more clients adopt our innovative, scalable retail solutions, we have expanded our sales backlog to a record high of around 2,000 retail cabinets, by the end of third quarter.

In conjunction with serving more wholesale and retail clients, we continued to expand our capacity pipeline, in a prudent manner. Such pipeline expansion is in-line with our previously announced three year growth plan. At the same time, we are maintaining regular dialogues with our clients to try to understand their requirements for data centers, keep a close tab on the shifting market demands, like solution adjustments in real time, and secure additional orders for cabinets entering our pipeline.

For example, we have received increasing interest from potential industry partners, for our Jiangsu campus products, whose first batch of cabinets will be ready for wholesale customers order, by the end of 2020. While we expand pipeline capacity and secure additional partnerships, we are also carefully monitoring our projects' progression and the delivery deadlines to ensure a healthy cabinet utilization rates.

In addition, we continued to reduce the number of reserve partner cabinets and then increase our self-base capacity. For our non-IDC business, we have also made, solid progress in further developing our products and enhancing our operational capability during the quarter. Due to our service products adjustment, our retail business experienced a revival. In summary, we delivered a strong third quarter performance, as we captured the growing market demand for IDC solutions.

We refined our product offerings and expanded our capacity pipeline in sync with our three years growth plan. Going forward, we shall continue to evaluate our value proposition, establish additional partnership in a broad range of sectors and strike a balance between the pace and the utilization rates of our capacity expansion.

We are convinced that we are in the right markets at the right time, with the right solutions. We have the industry leadership, the experienced team and the domain expertise. We are optimistic about our future and we are confident that we can generate superior sustainable shareholder value consistently going forward.

Now I'd like to turn the call over to Sharon, our CFO for more financial details.

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you Alvin and hello everyone. Before, we start our detailed financial discussion, please note that we will present non-GAAP measures today. Our non-GAAP results exclude certain non-cash expenses, which are not part of our core operations. The details of these expenses may be found in the reconciliation tables included in our press release. Please note, that all of the financial numbers, we are presenting today are in RMB terms and that percentage changes are on a year-over-year basis, unless otherwise stated.

During the third quarter, we ramped-up our cabinet delivers to fill more client orders, make meaningful progress in several projects and expanded our sales pipeline. As a result, both our revenue and adjusted EBITDA grew year-over-year and our balance sheet strengthened at the same time. During the third quarter, our revenue increased by 12.7% to RMB981 million, exceeding our guidance. That growth was driven by the expanding scope of corporate digitalization across China. As a result, clients demand for high-quality and scalable IDC service, such as ours, has received a significant Group. During the third quarter of 2019, our hosting MRR per cabinet improved to RMB8,711 as of September 30, 2019.

We operated and managed a total of 32,116 of cabinet, which included 27,267 self-built and 4,849 partnered cabinets. Our utilization rate in the third quarter was 66.2%. Adjusted cash gross profit, which excludes depreciation, amortization and share-based compensation expenses was RMB396.7 million in the third quarter of 2019, compared to RMB391.9 million in the same period last year.

Our adjusted cash gross margin was 40.4% compared to 45% in the third quarter of 2018. The year-over-year decline in margin was due to the introduction of certain lower margin product offerings, high rent and utility costs, as well as the delivery of additional pipeline capacity. Adjusted operating expenses, which excludes share-based compensation expenses and changes in the fair value of contingent purchase consideration payable, decreased to RMB146.2 million from RMB162.9 million in the same period of 2018. As a percentage of net revenue, adjusted operating expenses decreased to 14.9% from 18.7% in the same period of 2018. Adjusted EBITDA grew by 11.1% to RMB272.5 million, exceeding our previous guidance range. Adjusted EBITDA margin decreased slightly to 27.8% from 28.2% in the same period of 2018, due to the delivery of additional capacity. Net loss attributable to ordinary shares, was RMB69.5 million, basic and diluted profit was RMB0.10 per ordinary share and $0.60 per ADS respectively.

Each ADS represents six ordinary shares. Moving on to our balance sheet and the liquidity. At the end of the third quarter, our debt-to-assets ratio was 61.2%, and our debt to adjusted EBITDA ratio was 3.1. Our net cash generated from operating activities was RMB103 million during the third quarter. As of September 30, 2019, we maintained an abundable cash position of RMB2.94 billion, which services as a solid foundation for ADS [Phonetic] to capture additional growth opportunities and expand our client base to a broader range of investors [Phonetic].

Looking forward, we expect net revenue for the fourth quarter of 2019 to be in the range of RMB1.03 billion to RMB1.05 billion and adjusted range of RMB245 million to RMB265 million. For the full-year of 2019, we now expect the net revenue to be in the range of RMB3.771 billion to RMB3.791 billion and adjusted EBITDA to be in the range of RMB1.033 billion to RMB1.053 billion. This forecast reflects our current and the preliminary views on the market and operational conditions, which are subject to change. This concludes our prepared remarks for today.

Operator, we are now ready to take questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your first question comes from the line of Rex Wu from Jefferies. Please ask your question.

Rex Wu -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you management for taking my question. So I'll ask three, first. So, number one, it's -- we see in this quarter, we added 1,500 new cabinets -- self-built cabinets. And you mentioned about 2,000 backlog. So, based on the guidance of 6,000 new cabinets for the full year, we still need to deliver about like 4,500 new cabinets. So, do you -- are you still reiterating the new cabinets target? And second, it's -- the utilization is still maintained at 66%. So, in which region is below the average, and how do you plan to improve? And number three is, can you talk more about the upcoming wholesale pipeline for 2020? Thank you.

Shiqi Wang -- Chief Executive Officer and President

This is Alvin. Thank you, Rex for your questions. Your first question regarding the capacity in the -- new added capacity in 2019. I should say, in the fourth quarter of this year, so we will deliver another 4,000 plus new cabinets. So, we are confident to deliver the capacity according to our guidance for this year's new capacity expansion target.

And secondly, it's regarding the utilization rates, we are currently see -- we'll see a strong demand from our customers across the regions. But still that -- we see that in some regions, especially Tier 2 cities, we see the customer demands are lower than average, so that's the current situation. But still, that -- what we see in the Tier 1 cities, we will see very strong demand. That's why we -- as we said before that we have 2,000 cabinets backlog, so mainly in Tier 1 cities. And for 2020, wholesale types, we are now have very strong engagements with all the top public cloud players across China. So we are confident to secure further projects, in addition to current the two deals with two major public cloud players this year.

Rex Wu -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Your next question comes from the line of Camille Xu from Morgan Stanley. Please ask your question.

Camille Xu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you for the opportunity. Hello?

Operator

Please, continue.

Camille Xu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Okay, thank you for the opportunity and congratulations on the good result. I have only one question about the financials. I see the G&A expenses decline accelerated to about 25% year-on-year this quarter, which I think, is a good signal for efficiency improvement. So I just want to know, is there any more fat to cut here. And what is the expected run rate for the G&A expense going forward?

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Camille. This is Sharon. I will answer your question regarding to our G&A and operating expenses. You're right, if you are looking at our financial statements, you can see a decline of the operating -- adjusted operating expenses, especially the G&A, that was because of our operating efficiency and leverage, as well as the capitalization of certain expenses because we spent more expenditures on the resources funding, as well as the construction and all the costs was capitalized under construction.

Yeah, it is hard for the company to make the adjusted operating expenses to further decline to below 15%. So, we expect in Q4, the adjusted EBITDA margin was still about 15%. And regarding to our EBITDA margin in Q4, if you are looking at our guidance, the EBITDA margin will face challenge because of the concentration -- concentrated delivery of new capacity during this quarter. Thank you.

Camille Xu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your next question comes from the line of Stella Li from Citigroup. Please ask your question.

Stella Li -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Hi, thank you for the opportunity. I have three questions. First, I noticed that the operating cash flow of third quarter is weaker compared to second quarter or compared to last year. So, I'm wondering what's the major reason and what's our expectation for the operating cash flow in fourth quarter?

The second question is, given that we still need to deliver pretty big size of cabinets in the fourth quarter and also that we revised our CapEx guidance, that means the investing CapEx will be pretty big in fourth quarter. Do we have any other fund raising plan? That's the second question. The third question is in the cash flow statement, I noticed there are few, several hundred million outflow of investments. I want to know what is that? Thank you.

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you Stella for your questions. Regarding to our net operating cash flow, yes, the net operating cash flow will come in lower than last year, due to our higher rent expenses, the higher interest payment because we raised new debt financing in the first half of this year and the lower tax refund compared to 2018. And for full year 2019, we expect the net operating cash flow between RMB500 million to RMB600 million.

And your second question is about our future financing plans, and our financing -- our long-term financing strategy is to maintain diversified funding portfolios to balance the liquidity and optimize the cost and to support the expansion of our cabinet capacity. So, our future plan is based on our capacity plan and currently company cannot provide any specific plans on our future financing plans. And your third question is regarding to our cash out of the --.

Stella Li -- Citigroup -- Analyst

There is a payment for investments. Yeah, there is RMB320 [Phonetic] million outflow of payments for investments. What is that?

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. It's because, we buy some time deposit.

Stella Li -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Okay.

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

For the US dollars offshore. Thank you.

Stella Li -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Sure. Can I have a follow-up question, regarding funding plan, let me rephrase the question. Do we have any new bank credit lines or any other source of funding in addition to our existing channel?

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, of course. From this year, the debt capital market environment in domestic market is -- for IDC industry is getting better. We have been discussing with local banks and the finance lease institutions for project financing, with longer maturity profile and the favorable interest rate. And currently, we have just confirmed with one local bank for project financing for a data center in Shanghai areas and we will sign the final project financing contracts with the bank in the coming months. Thank you.

Stella Li -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from the line of Xuan [Phonetic] Li from CICC. Please ask your question.

Xuan Li -- CICC -- Analyst

Thanks for taking mine. I have two questions. First I'm hoping that you could add more color on your cooperation with Alibaba, like how many cabinets will they take in Phase I and when do you expect to have a Phase II plan announced? And my second question is that I've seen, your MRR per cabinet is stable this quarter. I want to know whether you take any measures to present MRR from falling quickly after you entering the wholesale market?

Shiqi Wang -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Thank you for your question. This is Alvin. I will take your questions. The first one is regarding the cooperation with our Alibaba Group, at least Alibaba clouds, so we already signed long-term strategic agreements with AliCloud, in one of their database campus in Central part of China. And in the Phase I that's -- so we are planning to deliver around more than 20 -- actually just 2,000s high-power density cabinets. And actually, in the first -- in the first phase we will formally deliver first half of next year and second -- the second phase already it's started. So we have very close cooperation with our customers and also our partners. So we will see the projects formally kick-off and all the companies start work -- started very soon.

And regarding the wholesale MRR, for sure, that's -- currently, we have no very significant contribution from the wholesale to our top-line and the bottom-line yet. So after we see quite significant contribution from the wholesale projects, we will consider to separate the report, especially consider MRR and other financial figures as well. Thank you.

Xuan Li -- CICC -- Analyst

Yes, thank you.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Your next question is a follow-up question from Rex Wu from Jefferies. Please ask your question.

Rex Wu -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you Alvin and Sharon. So, I just follow-up, Alvin just mentioned, the Phase II already started, is this like in the same campus and for the same customer and how much -- like how many cabinets approximately will it have? Thank you.

Shiqi Wang -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Okay. Rex, thank you for your question. It is Alvin, again. That Phase 2 project is -- in the same campus and for the same customer, the capacity will be higher than the Phase I. Thank you.

Rex Wu -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. I would now like to hand the conference back to the management. Please, continue.

Rene Jiang -- Director of Investor Relations

Thank you once again for joining the call today. If you have any further questions, please feel to our contact of IR. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 29 minutes

Call participants:

Rene Jiang -- Director of Investor Relations

Shiqi Wang -- Chief Executive Officer and President

Sharon Xiao Liu -- Chief Financial Officer

Rex Wu -- Jefferies -- Analyst

Camille Xu -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Stella Li -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Xuan Li -- CICC -- Analyst

More VNET analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet Logo