Gong Yu, the chairman and CEO of Chinese streaming firm iQiyi, hailed an “iconic turnaround” as he presented quarterly financial results covering the period between July and the end of September. He said that business performance had “far exceeded our targets at the beginning of the year.”
The company, which is a separately-listed subsidiary of tech giant Baidu, reported revenues of RMB7.47 billion ($1.04 billion at current rates of exchange) and net losses of RMB395 million ($56 million) for the third quarter.
It achieved (pre-tax) operating profits of RMB309 million in the quarter, compared with losses of RMB1.37 billion in the same period last year. And created free cash flow for the second quarter in succession – of RMB147 million.
The numbers come after twelve years of losses, multiple capital raising exercises and a more than 80% drop in the share price since iQiyi listed on NASDAQ in early 2018.
And by other published measures the company may still have work to do to convince investors that it has turned the corner and started to grow again.
The quarterly revenue figure was a year-on-year decline of 2% (compared with RMB7.59 billion). Paying subscriber numbers averaged 101 million, down from 104.7 million in the same period last year but up quarter-on-quarter.
Even with a small gain in average revenue per subscriber, membership revenue declined 2% year-on-year.
Advertising revenue from the service’s free tiers plunged 25% year-over-year “primarily due to the challenging macro environment,” the company said.
And the net loss was deeper than in the second quarter, when the deficit was only RMB214 million.
The company has improved its financial performance and outlook by reducing costs, through lower content spending and staff cuts. “Content costs as a component of cost of revenues were RMB4.3 billion ($609 million), decreasing 18% year over year,” the company explained. “The decrease in content cost was driven by our improvement in content strategy and improvement in operating efficiency.” Staff and other overhead costs were down 21% year on year to RMB980 million ($138 million) in the quarter.
Following the publication of the results on Tuesday, iQiyi’s ADRs gained more than 2% in pre-market trading. At $2.84 per unit the company has a market capitalization of $2.27 billion.