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Sea Limited (SE) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

By Motley Fool Transcribing – Nov 16, 2021 at 11:30PM

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SE earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

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Sea Limited (SE -2.81%)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Nov 16, 2021, 7:30 a.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good morning and good evening. Welcome to the Sea Limited third quarter 2021 results conference call. [Operator instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms.

Min Ju Song. Please go ahead.

Min Ju Song -- Senior Manager, Group Chief Commercial Officer's Office

Hello, everyone, and welcome to Sea's 2021 third quarter earnings conference call. I'm Min Ju Song from Sea's group chief corporate officer's office. Before we continue, I would like to remind you that we may make forward-looking statements, which are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties and may not be realized in the future for various reasons as stated in our press release. Also, this call includes a discussion of certain non-GAAP financial measures, such as adjusted EBITDA and net loss, excluding share-based compensation.

We believe these measures can enhance our investors' understanding of the actual cash flow of our major businesses when used as a complement our GAAP disclosures. For a discussion of the use of non-GAAP financial measures and reconciliation with the closest GAAP numbers, please refer to the section on non-GAAP financial measures in our press release. I have with me Sea's chairman and group chief executive officer,  Forrest Li; group chief financial officer, Tony Hou; and group chief corporate officer, Yanjun Wang. Our management will share strategy and business updates, operating highlights and financial performance for the third quarter of 2021.

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This will be followed by a Q&A session in which we welcome any questions you have. With that, let me turn the call over to Forrest.

Forrest Li -- Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer

Hello, everyone, and thank you for joining today's call. Sea exists to connect communities, enable consumers, and empower small businesses so that more people can benefit from the growth of the digital economy. We continue to scale with efficiency and build deeper connections across our ecosystem. As this happens, we are bending our total addressable market.

We are reporting another quarter of strong results across all our businesses in the third quarter. Our results once again demonstrate our ability to capture new and attractive opportunities. At the group level, for the third quarter of 2021, we continued to record triple-digit growth in GAAP revenue and gross profit. GAAP revenue increased 122% year on year to $2.7 billion, while gross profit grew 148% year on year to reach $1 billion.

Along with our strong financial and operating results for the quarter, we rolled out more initiatives to empower our users to benefit from the opportunities of the digital economy. Let me share some examples. In Indonesia, we have ramped up our efforts to give local SMEs the resources they need to build successful businesses online, including helping them to reach new international markets on Shopee. In recent months, Shopee has opened Shopee Export MSME campuses in Solo and Bandung.

These composes give local businesses the resources and training they need to help them scale more effectively and sell internationally. SMEs can access inventory management systems, marketing support facilities like photography studios, courses on management, and initial and individual training sessions with the Shopee team. In Malaysia, we are working with the government to digitize rural sellers and help boost their sales on e-commerce platforms. We partnered with the Malaysian communication and multimedia commission to use their rural Internet centers nationwide to offer free e-commerce training to local entrepreneurs.

Since the start of the campaign in July 2021, we have trained and helped more than 6,000 rural sellers nationwide. We also partnered with the Malaysian government as part of the Shop Malaysia Online program to promote over 280,000 online and offline local brands and sellers. The program aims to further boost the local SMEs' participation in the growth opportunity offered by the digital economy. In Thailand, we are working with the Digital Economy Promotion Agency, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, and the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises Promotion to launch the digital opportunities for talent projects.

This initiative aims to develop digital entrepreneurial skills for young entrepreneurs through prize, training, and mentoring sessions. Similarly, in Brazil, we have been focused on onboarding more local SMEs to help them to sell and grow online. I'm pleased to note that more than one million local sellers in Brazil have registered with Shopee, since we started welcoming local sellers in mid-2020. Meanwhile, we are mindful that the impact of the pandemic remains a significant challenge in all our markets.

For instance, Vietnam imposed a strictest lockdown of the entire pandemic during the third quarter. During such lockdowns we quickly adapted to serving our users as much as possible while ensuring the safety and health of our employees. We've worked closely with government to ensure the safety of our team and continued to serve our sellers and buyers to the best of our ability. We have also launched various initiatives to assist the government in our market in rolling out containment and vaccination efforts.

In Indonesia, for example, we have worked with the government to integrate the national contact treating system within our app to enable more users to access this service with this. In Malaysia and the Philippines, we introduced the small reward programs for users who have been vaccinated to support the governmental efforts to encourage vaccine uptake. All these initiatives reflect the fundamental mission of our business. We want to ensure that the benefits of the technology and digitization are wide-reaching and accessible.

As more people in our communities embrace the digital economy, we are committed to serving the needs of more consumers and small businesses and continuing to play our part in building a healthy and sustainable digital economy. Let us now look at the performance of each of our business segments. Starting with digital entertainment. In the third quarter, Garena continues to solidify its position as one of the world's leading game developers and publishers as we deepened engagement with our large and growing global user base.

We reported bookings of $1.2 billion, up 29% year on year. Adjusted EBITDA grew 22% from last year to reach $715 million. Quarterly active users were 729 million representing year-on-year growth of 27%. And quarterly paying users hit 93 million, up 43% from last year.

Our paying user ratio increased to 12.8% from 11.4% a year ago. Garena is now serving some of the largest game communities globally, and we are very focused on creating great experiences to engage, entertain, and help friends and families spend time together. In particular, Free Fire's massive and highly engaged user base represents an exciting and growing opportunity for us. We continue to create high-quality diverse content so that our community can enjoy fresh and engaging experiences.

For example, we introduced more new content that develops the storylines across the Free Fire universe and its characters to deepen user affinity. We launched an event themed around Moco with a focus on enriching the narrative around one of the most popular playable characters in Free Fire. We also had our first movie collaboration partnering with Venom: Let There Be Carnage to bring Venom-themed playable content, in-game items, and collectibles to our users. We are also finding other creative ways to holistically encourage -- engage with our broader community through offline experiences.

This week, Free Fire will make its debut in the fashion world at São Paulo Fashion Week, where 20 in-game skins will be brought to life at a fashion show. Events like this are a great way for us to connect with our users across different mediums and reinforce Free Fire's growing influence and importance, both online and off-line among our communities. Importantly, we continue to enhance a variety of game modes within Free Fire. In the third quarter, we launched 1v1 and 2v2 mode and have seen significant adoption across our community.

Players enjoying the simplicity of this mode because they offer a more casual and a quicker game with a smaller group of friends. We are also introducing more diverse gameplay options within Free Fire, such as the recently launched Pet Mania. This mode enables users to compete against their friends or other members of the community in various fast-paced casual games. Another highlight of the quarter was the global celebration around Free Fire's sports anniversary.

Among other activities to celebrate this milestone with our community, we've worked with global artists to produce a theme song, which has been streamed over 50 million times across various online platforms to date. At the end of the third quarter, we introduced the Free Fire MAX globally to a very strong reception from our community. Free Fire MAX offers an enhanced Free Fire experience through higher quality effects, animation, graphics and features, but retaining the same great game play. Because we are committed to empowering users everywhere, we've worked hard to ensure that players of both Free Fire and Free Fire MAX can play together seamlessly.

To make that possible, we developed proprietary in-house technology to guarantee complete integration between both Free Fire and Free Fire MAX. This also allows existing users of Free Fire to use the same account on Free Fire MAX and sync account data across both apps with excess to all game modes. With Free Fire MAX, we have also incorporated a map editor feature called Cartland. Players can create their own unique maps and invite their friends to join them in paying within these custom maps.

This enables us to tap into the creative power of our community. They have always been the source of our inspiration for the game, and now they have an opportunity to create their own experiences within the game. It is also a powerful new way for friends to enjoy the game in the space that they have created together, which as a new and deeper dimension to our community building efforts. While still early, Free Fire MAX will be an important component of the free bar platform by continuing to drive more engagement and experiences across our large and diverse user base.

The positive community reception to this initiative is reflected in strong engagement across our markets. According to App Annie, Free Fire was ranked second globally by average monthly active users for all mobile games on Google Play in the third quarter. Free Fire also continued to be the highest grossing mobile game in Southeast Asia, Latin America and India. It has maintained this leading position in Southeast Asia and Latin America for nine consecutive quarters and in India for four consecutive quarters.

In the U.S., Free Fire remained the highest grossing battle royale game for the third consecutive quarter and it was the second largest grossing mobile game on Google Play across all game categories during the quarter. Given Free Fire's growing global popularity, we see significant opportunity to provide our community with many kinds of ways to enjoy Free Fire platform, and we continue to invest in building toward a long-lasting global franchise. We are looking forward to a busy calendar of e-sports events toward the end of the year. Free Fire will be hosting the Free Fire Asia Championship and Free Fire EMEA Invitational at the end of this month.

Additionally, the Arena of Valor International Championship will be held in the coming weeks. We believe this exciting lineup of e-sports tournaments will further drive engagement across our communities. We are also very focused on growing our global reach and building a games pipeline that ensures we can capture the most promising and valuable long-term trends in online games. Our growing global presence across diverse high-growth markets gives us important local insights and strong local operational capabilities, and our in-house development team is tapping into this as they work on both existing games and new ideas.

Moreover, given our proven global track record, we have received more interest from studios keen to build strategic relationships with us. As such, our pace of investment in and partnerships with game studios worldwide had stepped up. Now moving to e-commerce. Shopee continues to grow much more quickly than the overall market as we deliver ever greater value to our sellers and buyers.

In the third quarter, Shopee recorded GAAP revenue growth of 134% from last year to reach $1.5 billion. It also recorded gross orders of $1.7 billion up 123% year on year. This is the ninth consecutive quarter of triple-digit year-on-year order growth for Shopee. Shopee's GMV was $16.8 billion, an increase of 81% since last year.

With monetization continuing to improve, GAAP revenue as a percentage of total GMV rose to 8.6% from 6.7% in the third quarter of 2020. The stronger monetization was driven by growth across our revenue streams, including value-added services, transaction-based fees and advertising revenue. In view of Shopee's performance, we are again raising our full year 2021 e-commerce guidance. We now expect e-commerce GAAP revenue to be between $5.0 billion and $5.2 billion, representing over 135% growth from 2020, at the midpoint of the revised guidance.

Our previous e-commerce GAAP revenue guidance was between $4.7 billion and $4.9 billion. As with Garena, Shopee is focused on deepening engagement with our users is a winning strategy. We are helping sellers to be more competitive. For example, we have rolled out more features, tools and services to help them build engagement with their customers and grow their business.

We recently launched a Seller Mission, an incentive program that rewards sellers with privilege as they complete certain tasks. The program gamifies the experience of sellers as it guides them through features and tools on Shopee that they can use to become better sellers. We also introduced the tools like Listing Optimizer, which helps sellers identify listings that can be improved and how to improve them. These initiatives help sellers grow on the Shopee platform and create better experiences for our buyers too.

We also recently celebrated the first anniversary of Shopee Premium, a dedicated space on Shopee for select brand partners in the luxury segment. Since launch, we have doubled the number of Shopee Premium brands. Through a more immersive shopping experience, Shopee Premium helps brands share their stories and build deeper personalized relationships with buyers. And for our buyers, we continue to roll out captivating content and activities, such as our hugely popular double big sales.

Last week, Shopee had a fantastic double 11.11 shopping festival with widespread success. It was especially heartening to see an uplift in participation from consumers in rural and smaller towns as they enjoy the convenience and a wide assortment on Shopee. Additionally, our new local sellers also benefited through a substantial increase in sales during the festival period. These shopping festivals showcased the numerous ways in which we serve and engage with our community.

And its success exemplified Shopee's strengthening position as the go-to marketplace for our consumers. Our focus on engagement and adding value for our community is the key factor in our sustained strong user metrics. According to App Annie, globally on Google Play, Shopee ranked first in the shopping category by total time spend in app, and second, by downloads and average monthly active users in the third quarter. Shopee also continued to be the top-ranked app in the shopping category in both Southeast Asia and Taiwan by average monthly active users and the total time spend in app during the quarter.

Shopee was the leading app across the same metrics in Indonesia where we recorded another quarter of triple-digit year-on-year order growth. Shopee also continued to make good progress in Brazil. In the third quarter, it was once again ranked first by download and the total time spent in app. And second by average monthly active users for the shopping category according to App Annie.

While Brazil is still a young market for us, our local teams are focused on better understanding our growing community of local buyers and sellers and improving the experience we offer to them. We believe that our deepening engagement with the local community is a promising sign of this market's long-term potential for Shopee. Shopee's total adjusted EBITDA loss per order across all markets was $0.41 in the third quarter. As we have said previously, we are committed to investing efficiently and growing in a sustainable manner across all our markets as Shopee scales.

And with that in mind, we are pleased to note that adjusted EBITDA loss per order improved both on a year on year and quarter-on-quarter basis in Southeast Asia and Taiwan combined as well as in Shopee's other markets combined. Looking ahead, we are prudently and efficiently exploring how to maximize our largest addressable opportunities, giving our growing market position. In the recent months, we launched Shopee in Poland, France, Spain and India. From time to time, we may test the waters in new markets where we believe there may be an opportunity to use our experience in highly diverse environment to reach underserved buyers and sellers.

On one hand, our core focus remains managing our efficient and sustainable growth in Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Brazil, where we have established and are continuing to grow our strong presence serving local sellers and buyers. On the other hand, the opportunities we can address through efficiently leveraging the Shopee platform in existing markets and expanding into new markets have increased. We will continue to exercise prudence and maintain flexibility as we pursue the significant growth opportunities with accelerating investments. Turning to our digital financial services business.

SeaMoney recorded excellent results in the third quarter. The total payment volume of our mobile wallet services grew by 111% year on year to reach $4.6 billion. Quarterly paying users of our mobile wallet services increased to over $39 million, up 120% year on year. One of our key areas of focus is expanding the number of use cases for our mobile wallet so that we can serve more businesses and add greater value for our users.

In the recent months, we've partnered with more online and offline merchants such as Google Play in Malaysia, Blue Bird Taxi in Indonesia, FamilyMart in Thailand and Lotte Cinema in Vietnam. As we grow the number of use cases, we are naturally seeing an increase in consumer adoption of our mobile wallet as more people grow to appreciate the ease and the convenience that our platform offers. And as our user base grows, we see growing interest from merchants wanting to work with us, creating a positive flywheel effect that we believe will drive increasingly efficient growth for SeaMoney. Besides our mobile wallet business, we have launched early initiatives in other digital financial services such as buy now pay later, digital bank, and insurtech.

These products are still in the early development phase, and we are currently focused on strengthening our models and operations. In line with our mission to serve the underserved segment in our market, we intend to roll out more of these digital financial products in a thoughtful manner with our customary focus on long-term sustainable growth. We are excited about the significant long-term growth potential of the opportunity that SeaMoney addresses, and we believe we are well positioned to serve this opportunity by building on our strong technology core and our unique insights and relationship with consumers and businesses across our markets. Last but not least, I'm very pleased to announce Chris Feng's appointment as Sea's Group president effective from January 1, 2022.

Chris is an exceptional business leader who has delivered outstanding results for Sea and deeply embodies our core values. He, together with the rest of the leadership team and our hugely talented Sea team, have not only driven our business forward, but also significantly furthered this mission to better the lives of consumers and small businesses with technology. Going forward, Chris will continue to directly report to me and operate our Shopee and SeaMoney businesses. In addition, as group president, Chris will work closely with me and the rest of the group leadership team on our long-term strategic initiatives with an increasing focus on synergy creation across our various businesses.

In closing, our first core value at Sea is we serve. And this continues to inform everything we do. We believe that technology holds the greatest potential to improve people's lives, and we believe that in the current environment, our commitment to serving the unmet needs of our communities through technology has never been more important. In the quarters ahead, we will continue to focus on connecting communities, enabling consumers, and empowering small businesses so that more people can benefit from the growth of the digital economy.

With that, I will invite Tony to discuss our financials. 

Tony Tianyu -- Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Forrest, and thank you to everyone for joining the call. We have included detailed financial schedules together with the corresponding management analysis in today's press release, and Forrest has discussed some of our financial highlights. So I will focus my comments on the other relevant metrics. For Sea overall, total GAAP revenue increased 122% year on year to $2.7 billion.

This was mainly driven by growth in the scale of our e-commerce business as we continue to deepen the engagement with our users as well as the growth of digital entertainment business, especially our self-developed game, Free Fire. Digital entertainment bookings grew 29% year on year to $1.2 billion. GAAP revenue was up 93% year on year to $1.1 billion. The growth was primarily driven by the increase of our active user base and deepening user penetration as we continue to engage the community through quality content and immersive experiences.

Digital entertainment adjusted EBITDA was $715 million. This represents year-on-year growth of 22%, and was mainly driven by the top line growth. On e-commerce, our third quarter GAAP revenue of $1.5 billion included GAAP marketplace revenue of $1.2 billion, up 151% year on year. And GAAP product revenue of $0.3 billion, up 82% year on year.

The strong result demonstrated the deepening penetration of e-commerce and our ability to capture these significant growth opportunities. E-commerce adjusted EBITDA loss was $684 million as we continued our investment to fully capture the opportunities in our markets. We remain committed to continue investing in a prudent and sustainable manner and growing the ecosystem to serve our users better. Digital financial services GAAP revenue was $132 million, an increase of 818% year on year from $14.4 million in the third quarter of 2020.

The growth was primarily due to increasing traction as we continue to expand our suite of service offerings. Adjusted EBITDA loss was $159 million compared to a loss of $149 million in the same period of 2020. This was primarily due to our continued efforts to drive mobile wallet adoption. Returning to our consolidated numbers.

We recognized a net nonoperating loss of $13 million in the third quarter of 2021 compared to a net nonoperating loss of $74 million in the third quarter of 2020. Our nonoperating loss in the third quarter of 2021 was primarily due to interest expenses on our convertible notes, partially offset by foreign exchange gains. We had a net income tax expense of $101 million in the third quarter of 2021, which was primarily due to corporate income tax and withholding tax recognized in our digital entertainment business. As a result, net loss, excluding share-based compensation, was $448 million in the third quarter of 2021 as compared to $346 million for the same period in 2020.

With that, let me turn the call to Min Ju.

Min Ju Song -- Senior Manager, Group Chief Commercial Officer's Office

Thank you, Forrest, and Tony. Our management team here today, Forrest, Tony and Yanjun are now ready to open the call for questions. Operator?

Questions & Answers:


Thank you. And we will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] Our first question today will come from Alicia Yap of Citigroup. Please go ahead.

Alicia Yap -- Citi -- Analyst

Hi. Good evening, management. Thanks for taking my questions. Congrats on the solid results.

Two questions here. First, I guess Forrest mentioned on the Shopee entering Europe, for example, Poland, and also more countries in LatAm. Can you elaborate what is the target you wanted to achieve, especially from the European countries? What kind of KPI that you will monitor to assess that your progress is well achieved and to -- potentially to evaluate to invest more? And then second question is Free Fire. With the Free Fire quarterly addition of active user slowdown to single digit in the third quarter, will this suggest more or less saturated penetration of Free Fire user TAM? Or will there be room for further reaccelerated with more new games launch and more new content launch within the Free Fire.

So any color you could share would be appreciated. Thank you. 

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

Thank you, Alicia. Happy to. So in terms of the e-commerce expansion, as we mentioned that our focus, first and foremost, is on our markets, existing markets in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, as well as the new growth market in Brazil, where we have achieved a very strong presence. And we may, of course, from time to time, test waters in new markets in other parts of the world, given our past experience operating many different markets, including a highly diverse market in Southeast Asia and Taiwan and Brazil also being a different market from these other markets in Asia.

We believe that we have gained a deep operational experience in operating in different markets as well as outstanding of our business model focusing on mobile native, social commerce driven and long-tail high diverse categories that -- so especially the local sellers and buyers who might be underserved in their existing markets. However, of course, we are -- remain very humble. Being humble is one of our core values, in fact, and we constantly tell ourselves that we need to carefully evaluate all these market opportunities, as we learn. At the same time, we should develop a localized and tailored solutions for each market.

We wouldn't make any assumptions. We believe that, hopefully, our entrance could add value to the markets and see potential new growth areas that could also further promote the local e-commerce growth together with our peers. However, we don't have a -- we haven't set any fixed KPI. I think it's still at a very nascent exploratory stage.

We are optimistic of our Shopee's long-term growth because we believe there is a global need for -- demand for our business model is servicing the small business sellers as well as underserved consumers through our model. In terms of the Free Fire growth, of course, we've enjoyed a very strong growth, and Free Fire being one of the largest mobile games perhaps in history so far, and we continue to see strong user base. In fact, if we look at our metrics across the board, they have improved not only year on year, but also quarter-on-quarter with very tough comps during the -- especially during the past period where both of our markets were deeply affected by COVID. Now as people -- the vaccine rate gets up across the world and also our communities trying and learn to adapt to the situation, I think there is more of a normalized approach now.

And we are looking at more of a pre-COVID -- back to more of a pre-COVID environment in terms of the game operations. However, our user growth continued to sustain itself and especially in the newer markets that we have entered. So going forward, we're looking to, A, sustain our existing strong user base in the existing markets and explore new growth opportunities in markets that we haven't deeply penetrated especially with the launch of Free Fire MAX and new features, including tools for user-generated content such as Craftland and other tools we might introduce and features we might introduce to the game in the future. We are further focused on building out our strong IP and platform.

Now with more than 700 million quarterly active users and growing, we believe that this -- the platform itself can be further enhanced to really include more and more features, different ways of entertainment and socializing among our user communities, as well as introducing more online, offline collaborations with IPs, including Fashion Week that Forrest just mentioned to further build out this IP as well as the platform, and maximizing our long-term potential of Free Fire. We will continue to focus on that as well as continue to build up our game pipeline with more diversified genres from our self-developed pipeline as well as publishing as well as our investment pipeline. So that's going to be our focus in the near to longer term, we continue to see a long-term potential for the game. 


Our next question today will come from Piyush Choudhary of HSBC. Please go ahead. 

Piyush Choudhary -- HSBC -- Analyst

Good evening to the entire management team. Congratulations and thanks for the opportunity. Two questions for me. Firstly, Free Fire MAX was launched in late September.

So could you give us some insights on user engagement? How is that option and time spent? How different is it from Free Fire? And how does it impact your 2022 outlook? Second question is on the Sea capital. Could you give us an update how much of initial $1 billion capital is already deployed? And there was some media news around investment in Forte. Is that correct? And if yes, then what's the strategic rationale for the same? Thank you. 

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

Thank you, Piyush. In terms of Free Fire MAX, it is still at very early stage. We already see some positive and encouraging signs within our expectation of deeper engagement with users who have higher spec phones and they can enjoy higher resolution pictures and more features, etc. But very importantly, we make sure using our proprietary technology to fully integrate Free Fire and Free Fire MAX so that users playing both versions can play together in the same game and also user can use the same account to log into both versions.

And also within Free Fire MAX, we have introduced some features such as Craftland, which allows people to add a map and customize it and make it available for other users. This is our initial test in creating more user generation, content tools for our community engagement, and bringing more creativity from our communities into the game itself. So I think there are a lot of exciting developments that are to be rolled out in Free Fire MAX and as well as in Free Fire. So we are very much looking forward to the fourth quarter and ahead to continue to grow this game.

In terms of Sea Capital, well, we don't specifically disclose investment amounts. It's important to focus on supporting our ecosystem as well as innovation as a core mission of not just Sea, but also the different arms of Sea including Sea Capital where that team will continue. As we mentioned before, the theme is to focus on supporting innovation, supporting founding teams and -- who are providing better services, and enabling our communities through technology that are generally aligned with our mission to serve our communities with technology. And the Forte investment is part of that effort as well. 


Our next question will come from Piyush Mubayi of Goldman Sachs. Please go ahead.

Piyush Mubayi -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Thank you for taking my question. Yanjun, you talked about normalization post COVID, could you take us through the range of possible outcomes as we come out of COVID? Given your footprint across gaming and e-commerce, it's slightly confusing. If I live through the e-commerce businesses that you're in and in those jurisdictions, it's likely to be an economic boost that you will see, which, in theory, should be great for e-commerce company, maybe your e-commerce footprint. And when I look at it on the gaming side, well, there will be greater degrees of affordability and that does have repercussions for what you're paying ratios could be.

But I can understand in markets like the U.S., it would have a different impact. So if you could take us through what you think the post-COVID world could look like for you? And how -- and what's the right normal number we should be looking at? I'd be grateful. That's my first question. And my second question, again, a big-picture question.

You talked initially about helping merchants build out and leverage the platform to go across the world. Could you take us through where you think that process is in the buildup of the merchant base in countries like Indonesia and compared to where the cycle that we've seen in China? And give us a feel for what -- which innings we are in, in the baseball context? Thank you. 

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

Thank you, Piyush. In terms of COVID, I think we are already living in a more normalized time. I believe the Q3 results partly reflect that, in fact. So we continue to see strong growth from e-commerce sites across various markets.

Now we discussed it before during -- I believe, a few quarters earlier when COVID hit. There are different scenarios. One is, on the one hand, there is tailwind coming from social distancing rules where people rely more on online shopping to fulfill their consumption needs because of social distancing rules as well as for safety measures. On the other hand, if in the longer run, there is a significant impact on economies, there could be downward pressure on overall consumption that could also affect e-commerce industry as a whole and how much of that impact might be felt by us individually remains to be seen.

Now looking at our current trends and results, we believe that on the one hand, the step-up in digitalization in our markets, the forming of user behavior to shop online and also sell things from online by more of the especially the small businesses and even the brands are permanent here to stay. Meanwhile, we haven't seen any particular economies being so deeply or permanently impacted by COVID that there is clearly an impact on consumption. And at least from our perspective as a market leader, we continue to grow in our market leadership, especially in our markets, which are generally high-growth markets with low e-commerce penetration, we continue to see long-term growth potential. So on that front, we are quite optimistic about the long-term growth potential of e-commerce.

Of course, in normalized stage, when you do year-on-year comparison, the comp is internally tough for all e-commerce companies. I think Shopee has done -- our teams have done a great job and continue to grow at triple-digit rates for so many quarters. And that was a lot of efforts, and we also applaud our sellers communities and their efforts in working with us. And that attributes the second question on how we grow our merchant base to help them grow more.

I think that our merchants are -- especially as we focus more on the small business sellers, they need more handholding and also more help in managing their business. We started with a very basic tools, teaching them how to take picture of their products to be -- nicely to be sold online, how to describe their products accurately to be picked up by the right queue or searches from, all the way to how to manage inventory, how to manage marketing to maximize ROI, how to manage your accounts and finance. So we have all levels of classes for our merchants as well as many Shopee centers set up everywhere that we can help them with tools and develop the online tools and mobile tools, game features, social features, as many ways as we tend to reach them very deeply to help them manage their sales. And of course, from the platform perspective, we also offer integrated payment and logistics services to make things much easier for them.

Now on international potential, we have been very focused on helping our Indonesian merchants to also globally sell their products and -- that's are in demand. For example, using our international programs that their products can be mapped easily onto a different markets UI without them having to learn different languages and do a lot of tricky. And that's done through our in-house technology. So there are many tools we have developed to help them by making this as smooth as possible.

On the game side, I think, as I mentioned, the post-COVID normalization, as you can see, we have more of a stable user base. But on the -- however, even against very tough comps, we see improvements year on year and Q-on-Q pretty much across all our metrics. So I think that has already shown a great achievement by our game team. However, in the longer run, we continue to see growth opportunities both in Free Fire itself with new features, new modes, new collaborations and new IPs and being introduced into it as well as our further growing game pipeline through self-development, publishing and investment partnerships.

So we are very positive on the game outlook as well.


And our next question today will come from Venugopal Garre of Bernstein. Please go ahead. 

Venugopal Garre -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Hey. Good evening, everyone, and thanks for the opportunity. My first question is, again, on the expansion in the new geography. And I was curious to understand that given that we've seen a number of countries that you've entered in the last couple of months, are we done in terms of the choice of countries that we wanted to do in terms of global expansion? And secondly, when we sort of observed the user awareness campaigns and things centered post the launch, we haven't clearly seen any major activities around that.

While you're using probably social media as a platform even things like Instagram, we don't really see too many followers as yet. So I wanted to understand how are you approaching these while we're testing waters? But to what extent are we -- would we have to actually spend incrementally, which could, of course, alter a bit of the cost structure for the e-commerce business as well as we go forward. That's the first question. The second one is somewhere down the line in the press release as well, you mentioned on the cost side for e-commerce, logistics is one of the regions for the increase as well.

Wanted to understand from a sustainability perspective, is it more driven by any freight rate increases that we've been seeing of late globally, especially with a larger cross-border effort midway given our geographic expansion or is it more driven by the value-added initiatives you are doing in ASEAN as well, which, of course, all of the comes with the take rate as well? Thanks.

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

OK. Thank you. E-commerce questions. So regarding the global expansion, I think as we mentioned, we may test waters from time to time.

And I think it's still too early to focus on those markets, and there's not much for us to report on. If we open a new market, I'm sure people will hear about it in the market otherwise. So I think there's not much to report on at this point. Now If I understand correctly, you're asking whether we have been employing social media tools like Instagram to promote our e-commerce platform.

Is that the question?

Venugopal Garre -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

No. Rather, the question is that we haven't released any major brand advertising or any brand ambassadors or major awareness campaign in each of these geographies. What we are actually seeing deploying social media. So we have seen -- we are seeing Instagram for example, you are having a lot of posts out there, but we don't really see too many followers for some of these social media and Instagram feeds and stuff like that.

So wanting to understand from a cost structure point of view, at what stage will we have to kick start a fairly intense campaigns to create a user awareness because geographies like India is fairly large. So you would have to at some stage to allocate some amount of cost toward that?

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

Yes. I think India is still very -- at a very early stage. So we haven't really focused on widespread campaign nationwide. Again, but if you look at our other markets, we believe that we are very well followed on social media and -- in our Southeast Asia and the Latin markets, especially.

For the newer markets, again, I don't want to read too much into the current operations or numbers because it's really at a very nascent stage. In terms of logistics and cross-border logistics, I think we -- as usual, we continue to partner with third-party logistic service providers to serve our sellers and buyers communities. Most of our buyers -- sellers, in fact, primarily local sellers. So more focus is on connecting with local 3PLs to make sure the process is smooth and the delivery is timely and reliable for our users and also the cost can over time go down due to -- with efficiency and improvement on operations and deeper connections, integration with our platform.

So this has not been a change in our overall strategy. While we do have Shopee Xpress last mile delivery services in markets, as a supplement to 3PL capacity, we continue to view it as a holistic -- from a holistic perspective to see how overall logistic service experience has been for our sellers and buyers? Whether we need to ramp up more of our own Shopee Xpress delivery or we can rely more on the 3PLs? So on that front, we are very open-minded in adopting a highly pragmatic approach on this.


Our next question will come from Ranjan Sharma of J. P. Morgan. Please go ahead. 

Ranjan Sharma -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

Good evening and thank you for the call. Two questions from my side. Firstly, on the gaming side, you have not changed your guidance. And based on your nine months' results, it's indicating that the gaming portfolio is going to be declining in the fourth quarter despite the launch of Free Fire MAX. Is there any trends that make you guide this way? Or could there be some upside risk to the guidance? The second question is on the e-commerce basket size seems to be trending down.

If you could help us understand what's driving that and if that could be turned around as well? Thank you.

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

Yes. Thank you, Ranjan. Regarding the game side, as I mentioned, we are continuing to build our game franchise. Free Fire MAX, we primarily see as a user engagement to deepen with user engagement with you, the communities offer more features and the possibilities to use especially those with phones with heavy-higher specs that can allow more high-resolution maps and features.

So this is not for us, especially at this stage, a revenue driver. We believe our game guidance given the beginning of the year has been a very strong guidance in terms of monetization given the comp versus last year. And the overall size of the game portfolio we have already achieved and scaling up so rapidly over the course of a few years. So I think it's very important for us to also focus on solidifying our user base and our game content and pipeline and capabilities, to focus on long-term growth and long-term maximization of the potential of the Free Fire platform and IP as well as the diversification of our genres across a further stronger spectrum.

Now in terms of e-commerce AOV, I think it's been slightly trending downwards, probably also because of entrance of new markets where the AOV tend to be -- the basket size might be smaller with a new market mix. And overall, I think our AOV has been relatively stable at high single, low double-digit range. It's -- sometimes it can fluctuate because of shopping season or to the [Inaudible] of the category mixes. So overall, I think that's been quite stable.

So the AOV mix is not -- our overall AOV size is not a target for us. We don't have a KPI to say that we must drive up AOV. I think what AOV is the right mix for us depends on the markets that we have and our understanding of what users in those markets need and what categories really serve the users best and also might evolve over time as we focus on user growth. So on that front, I don't think it's necessary having a higher AOV is a right strategy for e-commerce platform.

And singularly focusing on AOV could have a negative impact on the health and the long-term profitability of the e-commerce platform.


This concludes our question-and-answer session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Min Ju Song for any closing remarks.

Min Ju Song -- Senior Manager, Group Chief Commercial Officer's Office

Thank you, and thank you all for joining today's call. We look forward to speaking to all of you again next quarter. Thank you.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 61 minutes

Call participants:

Min Ju Song -- Senior Manager, Group Chief Commercial Officer's Office

Forrest Li -- Chairman and Group Chief Executive Officer

Tony Tianyu -- Chief Financial Officer

Alicia Yap -- Citi -- Analyst

Yanjun Wang -- Chief Corporate Officer

Piyush Choudhary -- HSBC -- Analyst

Piyush Mubayi -- Goldman Sachs -- Analyst

Venugopal Garre -- Sanford C. Bernstein -- Analyst

Ranjan Sharma -- J.P. Morgan -- Analyst

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