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Youdao, Inc. (NYSE:DAO) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Youdao, Inc. (NYSE:DAO) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 16, 2023

Youdao, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-0.55 EPS, expectations were $-0.07.

Operator: Good day and welcome to the Youdao 2023 Third Quarter Earnings Conference Call. Today’s conference is being recorded. At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Mr. Jeffrey Wang, Investor Relations Director of Youdao. Please go ahead.

Jeffrey Wang: Thank you, operator. Please note the discussion today will contain forward-looking statements, related to future performance of the Company, which are intended to qualify for the Safe Harbor from liability, as established by the US Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. Such statements are not guarantees of the future performance and are subject to certain risks and uncertainties, assumptions and other factors. Some of these risks are beyond the Company’s control, and could cause actual results to differ materially from those mentioned in today’s press release and this discussion. A general discussion of the risk factors that could affect Youdao’s business and financial results is included in certain filings of the Company with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Company does not undertake any obligation to update this forward-looking information, except as required by law. During today’s call, management will also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures, for comparison purposes only. For the definitions of non-GAAP financial measures, and reconciliations of GAAP to non-GAAP financial results, please see the 2023 third quarter financial results news release issued earlier today. As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. Besides, a webcast replay of this conference call will be available on Youdao’s corporate website at Joining us today on the call from Youdao’s senior management is Dr. Feng Zhou, our Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Lei Jin, our President, Mr. Peng Su, our VP of Strategy and Capital Markets and Mr. Wayne Li, our VP of Finance.

I will now turn the call over to Dr. Zhou to review some of our recent highlights and strategic direction.

Feng Zhou: Thank you, Jeffrey. And thank you all for participating in today’s call. Before we begin, I would like to remind everyone that the financial information and non-GAAP financial information mentioned in this release is presented on a continuing operations basis, and all numbers are based on Renminbi, unless otherwise specifically stated. In Q3, we achieved record-high net revenues of RMB1.5 billion, marking a year-over-year increase of 9.7%. Loss from operations narrowed by 73.7% year-over-year to RMB57.7 million. Net cash used in continuing operating activities amounted to RMB294.7 million, largely stable with the same period of last year. We are clearly making steady progress towards achieving profitability. In Q3, excluding the currently loss-making smart devices segment, net revenues of our business lines could cover their combined cost and operating expenses.

Before looking at results from our various business lines, let us first discuss our progress on artificial intelligence. AI technology, specifically large language models, represents an unprecedented opportunity for education technology. It is becoming clear that this technology has fundamentally revolutionized access to many formerly highly-valuable but cost-prohibitive services for learners, schools and families. We are already witnessing accelerated changes in the domain. We are very excited about opportunities presented by large language models. I am delighted to share that Youdao is playing a leading role in the rapid advancement of LLMs and their application in education. Recently, we achieved a notable milestone with the receipt of relevant filings for our proprietary LLM, Ziyue, this month.

This underscores the acknowledgement of our technological capabilities by regulatory authorities. On the product front, we introduced the world's first digital human language coach, named Hi Echo. It was launched on Youdao Dictionary Pen X6 Pro in August and made its way to mobile app stores in October. I am happy to share that Hi Echo has already accumulated more than 100,000 registered users, a quick uptake. Additionally, we continued to enhance AIBox in Youdao Translation and introduced AI Writing, alongside other features, driving over 160% year-over-year growth in translation subscription fees in Q3. Moreover, I am thrilled to share that we will host an event in Beijing next month to introduce more LLM products and features. Next, I will quickly outline key business developments in Q3.

As for the learning services segment, revenue comes in at RMB950.8 million, representing a 7% year-over-year growth. We continue to focus on user satisfaction and healthy growth, in-line with our goal to achieve profitability. Sales of digital content services exceeded RMB400 million in Q3 with gross margin ratio exceeding 70% that hit the record high. During Q3, we released an AI quiz recommendations feature, which presents personalized quiz questions after students watch instructional videos to help improve learning and assess results. Students finished over 7.6 million quiz questions in Q3. Additionally, we launched AI Writing refinement in Q3, effectively reducing the time required for detailed assessment and refinement of student writings by 50%.

An adult learner receiving feedback from a tutor via video-conferencing.
An adult learner receiving feedback from a tutor via video-conferencing.

Regarding our STEAM courses, the gross billings of programming courses grew by over 30% year-over-year in Q3. Our programming and informatics courses have high user satisfaction mainly due to our one-stop services that provide comprehensive learning, competition preparation, and post-competition score estimations. Furthermore, we once again collaborated with the Chinese Weiqi Association to successfully hold the second National Children's Weiqi Open Championship. Turning to online marketing services, we continue to see strong growth momentum in Q3. Net revenue of online marketing services reached a historic high of RMB336.1 million, marking a 113.5% year-over-year increase and four quarters of over 50% growth. We continue to deploy enhancements to both AI ad-matching technology and more industry-specific data.

The continued growth of the business also provided our technical teams access to more data to do more precise audience targeting and real-time traffic filtering. These upgrades have, in turn, improved conversion rates, customer satisfaction, and our revenue. As for the smart devices segment, net revenues were RMB251.9 million in Q3, down by 29.3% year-over-year. The decline was mainly due to our continued efforts to reduce low return of investments sales channels, leading to a reduction in overall channel inventory that impacted Q3 revenue. Our channel optimization efforts will continue in Q4. We expect continued short-term negative impact in this segment before the optimization is likely to conclude by the end of this year. I would like to stress that these channel optimizations improve the business's long-term growth and profitability potential.

On the product front, users embraced our new products including the Youdao Dictionary Pen X6 Pro and Youdao Listening Pod Pro, leading to a year-over-year increase of over 10% in smart device Sell-Out RMB amount. Youdao Dictionary Pen X6 Pro, our flagship with LLM features, exhibited over 50% higher usage frequency than Youdao Dictionary Pen S6 in Q3, reflecting the popularity of its new features among customers. Our other efforts are also progressing well. For education digitalization solutions, we successfully secured project bids in Jiangsu, Gansu, and other regions in the third quarter. Education digitalization is a big focus for the overall public education sector and we aim to build this line as a growth segment steadily. Looking ahead, we are committed to delivering top-quality education content, products and services to our customers.

Moreover, our leading proprietary large language model Ziyue unlocks various opportunities for many novel applications, which is crucial in revolutionizing learning on a wider scale. We are very excited about the opportunities and cannot wait to serve our customers with more innovative products. Thank you. And now is Peng Su to give you an update on our financials.

Peng Su: Thank you, Dr. Zhou, and hello everyone. Today I will be presenting some financial highlights from the third quarter of 2023. We encourage you to read through our press release issued earlier today for further details. For the third quarter, total net revenues were RMB1.5 billion or US$210.9 million, representing a 9.7% increase from the same period of 2022. Net revenues from our learning services were RMB950.8 million or US$130.3 million representing a 7% increase from the same period of 2022, primarily driven by the strong sales performance of the digital content services compared with the same period of 2022. Net revenues from our smart devices were RMB251.9 million or US$34.5 million, down 29.3% from the same period of 2022, primarily due to our continuous efforts to streamline marketing channels with low return on investment for intelligent learning products in the third quarter of 2023.

Net revenues from our online marketing services were RMB336.1 million or US$46.1 million, representing a 113.5% increase from the same period of 2022. The increase was mainly attributable to the increased revenue from performance based advertisements through third parties’ internet properties. For the third quarter, our total gross profit was RMB859.6 million or US$117.8 million, representing a 13.1% increase from the third quarter of 2022. Gross margin for learning services was 67.8% for the third quarter of 2023, compared with 64.5% for the same period of 2022. Gross margin for smart devices was 42.6% for the third quarter of 2023, compared with 40.4% for the same period of 2022. Gross margin for online marketing services was 31.9% for the third quarter of 2023, compared with 27.1% for the same period of 2022.

For the third quarter, total operating expenses were RMB917.3 million or US$125.7 million compared with RMB979.2 million for the same period of last year. With that, for the third quarter, our sales and marketing expenses were RMB674.2 million compared with RMB709.8 million in the third quarter of 2022. Research and development expenses were RMB187.3 million, compared with RMB212.9 million in the third quarter of 2022. Our operating loss margin was 3.7% in the third quarter of 2023, compared with 15.6% for the same period of last year. For the third quarter of 2023, our net loss from continuing operations attributable to ordinary shareholders was RMB102.9 million or US$14.1 million, compared with RMB183.9 million for the same period of last year.

Non-GAAP net loss from continuing operations attributable to ordinary shareholders for the third quarter was RMB67.3 million or US$9.2 million, compared with RMB164.4 million for the same period of last year. Basic and diluted net loss from continuing operations per ADS attributable to ordinary shareholders for the third quarter of 2023 was RMB0.85 or US$0.12. Non-GAAP basic and diluted net loss from continuing operations per ADS attributable to ordinary shareholders for the third quarter was RMB0.55 or US$0.08. Our cash provided by the continuing operating activities were RMB294.7million or US$40.4 million for the third quarter. Looking at our balance sheet, as of September 30, 2023, our contract liabilities, which mainly consist of deferred revenues generated from our learning services, were RMB931.6 million, or US$127.7 million, compared with RMB 1.1 billion as of December 31, 2022.

At the end of the period, our cash, cash equivalents, restricted cash, time deposits, and short-term investments totaled RMB360.1 million or US$49.4 million. This concludes our prepared remarks. Thank you for your attention. We would now like to open the call to your questions. Operator, please go ahead.

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