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SINA Gets Mobile As Weibo Continues to Drive Growth

By Steve Symington - May 14, 2016 at 11:37AM

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The Chinese search portal served up some surprising stats on the dominance of mobile traffic this quarter.

Sina Logo


SINA Corporation (SINA) released first-quarter 2016 results Wednesday, and as usual it benefited from strong growth from its large stake in microblogging website Weibo (WB 4.76%). And even as SINA saw continued momentum in monetizing the mobile aspect of its core search portal business, shares still declined around 4% the following day.

But before we get there, let's have a closer look at how SINA kicked off the new year.

SINA's results: The raw numbers


Q1 2016 Actuals

Q4 2015 Actuals

Growth (YOY)

Net revenue

$198.7 million

$184.6 million


Net income/(loss) attributable to SINA

$15.3 million

($10.3 million)


Adjusted earnings per share





What happened with SINA this quarter?

  • On an adjusted (non-GAAP) basis, revenue climbed 7.7% year over year, to $196.1 million, and SINA incurred a surprising net loss of $2.8 million, or $0.04 per share, compared with adjusted net income of $3 million, or $0.04 per share in last year's first quarter. 
    • The adjusted net loss primarily resulted from an equity loss generated by SINA's investment in E-House.
  • Online advertising revenue grew 8.4% year over year, to $163 million, as a $20.1 million increase in Weibo advertising and marketing revenue more than offset a $7.5 million decline from portal ad revenue.
  • Weibo's daily active users increased 75% year over year, to 120 million, including 45% growth in mobile daily active users.
  • More than 91% of Weibo's average daily active users came from mobile devices in March. 
  • Daily video at Weibo increased 829% year over year, and 64% from last quarter. 
  • Mobile advertising revenue at Weibo represented 34% of total portal ad revenue, up from 14% in last year's first quarter.
  • Mobile devices drove 60% of total portal traffic, and 44% of total portal ad revenue in Q1.
  • Adjusted non-advertising revenue increased 5% year over year, to $33.1 million, including a 10% decline in portal non-ad revenue driven by the de-consolidation of SINA's core business, and 17% growth in Weibo non-ad revenue, to $20 million, the latter of which is thanks primarily to increased membership revenue.
  • Cash from operations in the first quarter was $18.2 million, and capital expenditures were $8 million. 
  • SINA ended the quarter with $2.2 billion in cash, equivalents, and short-term investments, $373 million of which is related to Weibo's cash and short-term investments, and $796.5 million in convertible debt.

What management had to say 

SINA CEO Charles Chao called it a "good start" to 2016 given Weibo's continued outperformance and in-line results at SINA's portal business. He elaborated:

Weibo's user community and engagements kept robust growth, mainly thanks to the optimization of information feed and strong consumption of video content on the platform. On the mobile front, Weibo strengthened the leading position, with over 91% of the average daily active users coming from mobile devices in March 2016. On the monetization front, advertising revenues from key accounts and small and medium enterprises (SME) customers have become the key driver of Weibo revenue growth. On the portal side, our performance was largely in line with our expectation, taking seasonality factor into account. We are glad to see the positive trajectory in mobile monetization of portal, with nearly 44% of portal ad spending generated from mobile devices in this quarter.

Looking forward 

SINA didn't offer any revisions to guidance for the full-year 2016. But when that guidance was issued in March, SINA told investors to expect 2016 adjusted revenue between $850 million and $950 million.

In the end, SINA's report held few surprises, as usual, and demonstrated more than anything the same reliance on Weibo to drive growth, as it takes continued steps in advancing its portal business in the path toward sustained, profitable growth. As for now, it's apparent that mobile is as important to achieving that goal as ever. And given this solid beginning to the new year after reporting similar progress overall in recent quarters, I think SINA investors should still be content with the company's position today.

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