ELong's CEO Discusses Q1 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

eLong, Inc. (EPOC)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 17, 2012 8:00 p.m. EDT

Executives

Guangfu Cui – CEO

Mike Doyle – CFO

Analysts

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

Eddie Leung – Merrill Lynch

Fawne Jiang – Brean Murray

Wendy Huang – RBS

[Geena Chen] – [TH Capital]

Presentation

(Q&A Session Transcription Only)

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions).

Our first question comes from Alicia Yap of Barclays. Ma’am, you may begin.

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

Hi, good morning. Yeah, good morning. Thanks for taking my questions. Wanted to understand a bit on your hotel business breakdown, how much of the volume is from leisure versus the business travel. And is the first quarter high volume growth helped by the Chinese New Year promotion that we should expect some seasonal drop in the second quarter?

Mike Doyle

This is Mike. As far as the mix between business and leisure, it’s not a metric that we track closely regularly. We believe that our growth is very much being fueled by the expansion of the leisure market in China, and we believe that our mix is shifting towards leisure. Our best guess is that we are about two-thirds business, one-third leisure today, with the leisure market growing faster than the business market.

As far as the seasonality of our business, we certainly do see a spike around Spring Festival with leisure demand, but we saw strong rates of room night growth in every month of Q1, and we don’t expect any difference to seasonal patterns in Q2.

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

I see. And then among the hotel revenues, not sure if you can share, in terms of revenue contribution by ranking, for example, among the group buy, the coupon and also the last-minute deals, and also the year-over-year growth among these products.

Mike Doyle

We haven’t shared the revenue contribution by hotel segments. I think what we have shared in the past has been the mix by [start] categories. Now with the fast growth of our group buy products, given that group buy transactions look financially a lot like a budget hotel transaction, the metric that we’re prepared to share is about half of our room nights come from group buy and budget hotels.

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

I see. That’s helpful. So if we exclude group by from first quarter, can we kind of get a rough sense like how fast is the auto, you know, programs grew?

Mike Doyle

No, we haven’t separated up the room nights that way.

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

Sure, sure. And then lastly, on the overall demand, just can you comment in terms of the travelling demand in China. Have you seen any cautiousness or the impact from the soft economy on the booking?

Guangfu Cui

Alicia, this is Guangfu. It’s hard to tell. We are seeing a weak economy, but at the same time, we see our online hotel strategy working very well for us, and we think we are gaining market share in this economic environment. And going forward, we are, like Mike said in his [comment], we are projecting a good quarter for the next -- for Q2, so that has taken the economy into consideration.

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

I see. Just last one, on the -- housekeeping, if you can share the cash flow number -- cash flow from operation for the quarter.

Mike Doyle

We haven’t disclosed quarterly cash flow. I think we did in our annual, [passed] the number in our 20-F, and I think our depreciation looks very similar year on year, if we were to [create the year] on Q1 cash flow.

Alicia Yap – Barclays Capital

Okay, great. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions).

Our next question comes from Eddie Leung of Merrill Lynch. Sir, you may begin.

Eddie Leung – Merrill Lynch

Hi, good morning, Guangfu and Mike. Congrats on a very good quarter. I have a couple of questions. The first one is regarding your group buy business. Wondering if you can discuss a little bit about its impact on the hotel commission rate as well as whether there’s any impact on the cash collection cycle, just from a process difference perspective.

And then secondly, you also mentioned about this year would be more like an investment year for eLong. So, could you give us the current headcount and your target for yearend, as well as the potential capital expenditure for the year? Thank you.

Mike Doyle

This is Mike. I’ll take them in order there. The revenue per room night was down 19% for the quarter. There were three primary drivers. The first was mix shift to group buy and to budget hotels; the second is impacts from -- sorry, the first was mix shift to group buy, the second was mix shift to budget hotels, and then third being the impact of our coupon program. In Q1, the biggest contributor of the decline in revenue per room night was mix shift to group buy hotels.

And then on the cash collection, on the cash collection related to group buy, it is a prepay product, and so we are getting -- taking payment from the customer in advance of the booking. It’s not a significant driver yet of our cash balance on our balance sheet, but it does have obviously a favorable cash flow cycle for us.

And regarding the level of investment as it pertains to headcount and to capital expenditures, our current headcount is a little over 2,100 employees. We haven’t given a forecast for full year staff count, but we will be adding headcount through the year.

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