Mobile Games

Netmarble’s Game Marvel Future Fight: The Boycott is Now Measurable

Lawrence Abrams No Comments

“The revolution will not be televised” per Gil Scott-Heron, but the boycott is now measurable

Keep up the boycott until Netmarble rolls back Patch 3.6

#BoycottMFF  #dontbelikeea  tweet @BillRosemann at Marvel

App Annie revenue rank chart as of December 5th

These are the two responsible for Patch 3.6

CEO of Netmarble Games Corp. Kwon Young-sik

GM of Netmarble U.S. Shim Chul-Min

Netmarble’s Game a Bust in the USA – Stock Price Target- 103 KRW

Lawrence Abrams No Comments

Summary

Our analysis of Netmarble’s IPO was that it was “priced for perfection”.  While the Lineage 2 game releases has been near perfect in Korea and Japan, its release in the USA has been a bust and the release in China is on hold due to geopolitical tensions.

As a result, we predict that Netmarble’s stock will fall 45% from its November 26, 2017 closing price of 188,500 KRW to around 103,378 KRW once the revenue impacts of the USA and China releases are fully understood by investors.

Netmarble’s IPO Valuation: Priced for Perfection

On May 11, 2017, Netmarble Games had an IPO on the Korea KOSPI stock exchange.

Due to an enthusiastic demand by Korean, International, and Sovereign funds, the company was able to price the IPO at the high end range of 157,000 Korean won (KRW) per share, or approximately $138 USD per share based on an exchange rate of .00088 KRW / USD.

Three days before trading began,  analyst Moon Ji-hyun with the Korean brokerage house of Mirae Asset Daewoo predicted that the company would exceed expectations for YoY revenue and profit doubling.  She gave the stock a price target of 200,000 KRW, or a 27% increase from the IPO price.  

Most other financial analysts and business reporters wrote positively about the company and its IPO.

Within the first hour of trading, individual retail investors pushed the price up to 171,500 KRW. The stock closed the day at 162,000 KRW, making the funds, the underwriters, the company and its CEO Bang Jun-hyuk very happy.

We alone differed.  (Disclosure: we have never held a position in the stock and do not intend to initiate one at anytime.  We have not received any remuneration for our articles on Netmarble.)

Three weeks before the IPO, on April 18, 2017 we analysed the offering and estimated that Netmarble’s post-IPO forward price sales ratio would be 4.3.  This was based on FY17 YoY reported sales forecasts of a revenue doubling — largely driven by its newly released game Lineage 2: Revolution.

We found that Netmarble’s post-IPO valuation exceedingly high by both South Korean and Western standards for mobile game companies.  

For example, we calculated the current price sales ratio of the very successful Korean mobile game company Com2uS at only 2.6.  We also calculated the market-derived current price sales ratio of King Digital at only 3.08 based on what Activision Blizzard paid to acquire King in 2015.

Netmarble’s 2017 Performance

Our assessment in April 2017 was that Netmarble’s IPO was “priced for perfection” based on a forward price sales ratio of 4.3.  We wrote another paper in May 2017 predicting that the stock would fall 33% from the IPO price to around 105,000 KRW once investors realized that Netmarble’s 2017 sales would fall short of expectations.

To Netmarble’s credit, its performance has been near perfect in the Korean and Japanese releases of Lineage 2.  After a couple of months of drifting downward,  the stock has recovered 47.8% from a low of 127,500 on August 11, 2017, largely due to the strong Japanese release.

On November 15, 2017, Netmarble released Lineage 2 in United States. Our assessment is that the release is a bust as games destined to be long-lasting hits in the USA usually crack the Top 10 iOS revenue rank on the App Annie charts within weeks of release.  The game has now sits at revenue rank #30 which we estimate translates to an annualized run rate in the neighborhood of $75 Million.

Below is the App Annie USA iOS revenue rank chart for Lineage 2:

The stock market has yet to factor in Lineage 2’s bust in the USA.

Also, the 2017 scheduled release of the game in China has been delayed due to geopolitical tensions between the two countries.

Below is a summary of Netmarble’s game performance in 2017 to date:

While Netmarble’s 4th quarter revenue figures should be at an all time high due to the successes of Lineage 2 in Korea and Japan, we forecast that Netmarble will miss analysts’ full year sales estimate of $2.3 Billion (2.5 Trillion KRW), or a revenue doubling,  by 14.8%.

We do not believe that the revenue impacts of the failed USA release and delayed China release are fully understood by investors.  The realization that Netmarble will fail to meet full FY17 revenue doubling forecasts should cause a compression in Netmarble’s IPO valuation multiple of 4.3 times sales.   

Assuming a more realistic multiple of 3.5, we predict that Netmarble’s stock will fall 45% from its November 26, 2017 closing price of 188,500 KRW to around 103,378 KRW within the next three months.

 

Zynga’s Leasing Agreement With Airbnb: A Material Transaction

Lawrence Abrams No Comments

The tech trendy SF-based email newsletter The Hustle reported on July 11, 2017

“Last night, we received an internal email from an anonymous, verified source at Airbnb confirming that the company has officially signed a multi-year, 5-story lease at Zynga’s headquarters in San Francisco’s SOMA district.”

According to the email:

  • Phase 1 will begin in 2018 and will deliver 3 floors of space ready to occupy by 2019.
  • Phase 2 will commence in 2020, and by 2021, [Airbnb will] be the sole occupants of the east tower at 650 Townsend (the Landlord will continue to occupy the west tower).

According to The Hustle, Zynga declined to comment on their story, and Airbnb didn’t respond to their email requests.

The Hustle’s scoop comes on the heels of another scoop from The Information two month earlier on May 8th of an impending deal. The Information is known for its access to Silicon Valley insider information.

We believe that the lease has a material impact on Zynga’s financials and we believe Zynga will be required to file an official 8-K statement with the SEC once the lease is signed.  

Zynga’s stock has been on the rise in 2017.

Zynga stock (Nasdaq: ZNGA) jumped 14.3% on May 5, 2017 after its 1Q17 conference call where it increased its 2017 revenue and profit guidance due to the early success of its recently acquired game  

Since then, the stock has risen another 14% due to periodic reports by stock analysts upping their stock price targets. For example, CNBC Investing reported on May 30th that a Piper Jaffray analyst raised the stock’s rating to overweight from neutral with a price target of $4.00 a share.

Zynga Stock Chart

The stock did not move on May 8th, the day of The Information scoop. It did not move on July 11th, the day of the Hustle scoop

Both scoops show up when you Google “ Zynga Airbnb.”

The question is why hasn’t the stock market reacted to these scoops?

We present the case below that lease has a material impact on Zynga’s financials.

According to a SF real estate publication The Registry, Zynga bought its 717,000 square foot HQs in 2012 for $228 Million or $ 318 per square foot.  Zynga was growing fast at the time and was flush with cash after raising  $1 Billion in a December 2011 IPO.

The building is a five story, high ceiling, open space structure located at 650 Townsend Street.  It is a block from Airbnb’s current headquarters.  See Link to Youtube Video below showing clearly the similarity between the two HQs

Video Of Interior of Zynga and Airbnb HQs

Interior Screenshot of Zynga HQ

 

Screenshoot of YouTube video of Zynga HQ

 

Airbnb is no ordinary tenant. It is the second highest valued startup after Uber. Airbnb’s current valuation is at $31 Billion based on a $1 Billion funding round that closed March of 2017.  

In estimating the current value of Zynga’s building, you have to take into account the fact that Airbnb will become an obvious candidate to buy the building in a year or two after it has an a multi-billion dollar IPO. It would negotiate to take over the whole building with Zynga vacating to smaller quarters.

Zynga actually listed the building for sale briefly in 2016, but withdrew because the cost of the leaseback offered by potential buyers was too high.   At the time,  $800 per square feet was mentioned as the going rate for SoMa office building.

Due to the fact that this building is absolutely ideal for high tech, and that the SF office market is still booming,  and last, but not least, that Airbnb might be the buyer after its IPO, we would value Zynga’s HQ currently at closer to $1,000 per square feet or $717 Million.  

This works out to be a tripling of its investment initial purchase price of $218 Million.

Zynga’s market valuation as of July 11, 2017 was $3.11 Billion.  Its cash balance as of 1Q17 was $720 Million.  It has no long-term debt.

The combination of $720 Million in cash with another $717 Million in a readily marketable building totals half of its current valuation.  

Plus the financials of Zynga’s game operations show signs of returning to cash flow positive. In 2016, it turned operating cash flow positive at $60 Million for the first time in 3 years. While not profitable for quite some time, it has three straight quarters of increasing revenue.

Once the lease is made official,  the stock should pop certainly over $3.80 a share.

 

 

 

Netmarble Games: Stock Price Target 33% Below IPO

Lawrence Abrams No Comments

On May 11, 2017, Netmarble Games had an IPO on the Korea KOSPI stock exchange.

Due to an enthusiastic demand by Korean, International, and Sovereign funds, the company was able to price the IPO at the high end range of 157,000 Korean won (KRW) / share, or approximately $138 USD / share based on an exchange rate of .00088 KRW / USD.

Within the first hour of trading, individual retail investors pushed the price up to 171,500 KRW. The stock closed the day at 162,000 KRW, making the funds, the underwriters, the company and its CEO Bang Jun-hyuk very happy.

Three days before trading began analyst Moon Ji-hyun with the Korean brokerage house of Mirae Asset Daewoo predicted that the company would exceed expectations for YoY revenue and profit doubling.  She gave the stock a price target of 200,000 KRW, or a 27% increase from the IPO price.  

Most other financial analysts and business reporters wrote positively about the company and its IPO.

We alone differed.  (Disclosure: we have never held a position in the stock and do not intend to initiate one at anytime.  We have not received any remuneration for our articles on Netmarble.)

Three weeks before the IPO, on April 18, 2017 we analysed the offering and concluded that IPO was “priced for perfection” meaning that the expectation of $1+ Billion USD in annual revenue from its newly released game Lineage 2: Revolution (L2R) was already built into the IPO price.

Below is a spreadsheet that summarized our prior analysis:

During the first two weeks post-IPO, three “imperfections”  cropped up and the stock fell 9.6% from its IPO price to close at 142,000 KRW on Friday, May 26, 2017.  

First, on the first day of trading on May 12th, a report surfaced that the Korean gaming authorities would not let minors play L2R until the company reduced the use of gambling (“gatcha”) mechanisms.

Second,  three days later on May 15th it was reported that NCSoft, a rival Korean game company that created and owned the Lineage IP,  planned a June 2017 release of a new game based on the same IP as Netmarble’s L2R.  The fear was that NCSoft’s new game would draw users away from Netmarble’ s L2R.

Finally, a week later on May 17th, the stock suffered a one day slide of 7.8% from 157,000 KRW to 142,000 KRW despite booking a 111% and 172% YoY increases in sales and profit, respectively, as revealed in its 1Q17 earnings report.  

The negative reaction by the stock market to these seemingly stellar financials is exactly what we predicted a month ago when we said that Netmarble’s IPO was priced for perfection at 157,000 KRW.  

The market has confirmed our conclusion that Netmarble must book YoY revenue increases that EXCEED 111% if the stock is to move significantly past the IPO price.

Below we will present updated app store data confirming our prior prediction that the annualized revenue run rate (ARR) of Lineage 2: Revolution has fallen significantly since its late December 2016 release.  

While still an impressive hit, L2R’s revenue in Korea for 2017 will not be $1+ Billion, but more like $600 MIllion.  

We predict that the release of Netmarble’s 2Q17 financials, which should happen around August 17th, will confirm a less than doubling of YoY revenue.  We predict that market will react negatively to that reality-check and the stock should be settle in around 105,000 KRW or 33% below the IPO price.  

In the meantime, expect business reporters and financial analysts to continue to issue positive forward looking statements regarding the release of L2R in Japan and China, TV spots featuring Korean teen idols promoting L2R, new game releases in Korea, and hints of acquisitions in the USA and Europe.

Expect a number of one day pops in the stock following such announcements followed by a continued downward drift.

For example, on Monday May 29th, the stock popped 3.5% late in the session based on a favorable report by Lee Min-a, an analyst with KTB Investments and Securities.  She downplayed the possible negative effects of the ban on playing L2R by minors and the NCSoft’s impending release of a game with similar IP.   

The analyst reiterated a “buy” recommendation with a price target of 157,000 KRW, exactly the same as what funds paid for the IPO. To our way of thinking,  this would be troubling to IPO investors.

This price target implies that the underwriters allowed the IPO to be price so high that brokerage analysts now admit that they see NO UPSIDE POTENTIAL for early investors for the remainder of 2017.   

We suggest that you ignore all forward-looking statements coming from business writers and brokerage house financial analysts.    Instead we recommend you follow real revenue trends in L2R and other Netmarble games that are freely available from such analytics companies as App Annie.  

Also check around the 27th of each month to see if L2R is still among SuperData’s Top 10 global revenue ranking companies. The month that L2R falls out of the SuperData’s Top 10 will be strong confirmation of our negative prediction that the stock is headed toward 105,000 KRW.

 

App Store Evidence of Fading Revenue for Lineage 2: Revolution

On December 13, 2016 Netmarble launched a mobile role-playing game called Lineage ll: Revolution  (L2R) based on licensed IP from NCSoft’s legendary PC game Lineage. According to app analytics company App Annie, the game immediately rose to #1 on the S. Korean iOS Apple revenue rank charts and has remain so to this day with the exception of two days in late May.

Just because L2R has remained ranked #1 on the S. Korean charts for the past four months, and likely will continue to do so for months, it is still possible that ARR has declined by $100s of Millions since release.

This is because there is a severe power function relation in the mobile game industry between ARR and revenue rank. Typically, at the top of the USA charts, there can be a $600 Million difference between the #1 and #2 ranked game, say $2.2 Billion ARR for #1 and $1.6 Billion ARR for #2.

For example, below is a power function we derived in an earlier paper on the Netmarble IPO for top ranked games on USA iOS app store.

 

 

For the S. Korean chart now, it is conceivable that the gap between #1 ranked L2R and the #2 ranked Everybody’s Marble, also by Netmarble published on Kakao, could be $700 Million or more.

In January 2017, Netmarble told the Korean press L2R generated $176.6 Million in revenue between mid-December 2016 and mid-January 2017. That translates into $2+ Billion ARR.

Obviously, a $2 Billion ARR is not sustainable for the full year of 2017. This is because, TOTAL Korean game revenue (mobile + console + PC) was only $4 Billion in 2016, according to Newzoo.

Netmarble has not made any official full year forecasts for L2R nor for the company as a whole. We do know that official 2016 revenue for the total company was $1.34 Billion.

In March 2017 analysts covering the company told The Korea Times  that they expect revenue to double to $2.7 Billion, largely based on the early success of L2R.  Assuming organic growth of around 25%, the implied 2017 forecast for L2R is around $1 Billion.

We present two pieces of evidence that even a $1 Billion in total revenue for 2017 is unlikely.

The first piece of evidence is an App Annie trend chart showing L2R download rank. Note that while L2R was ranked #1 in downloads for the first month since release, downloads have steadily dropped below #40 by late May 2017.  

It is doubtful this drop off was caused by a drop off in advertising by Netmarble.  It is more likely due to a lack of strong word-of-mouth by early players that this is a great game.

The other piece of evidence of a drop off in ARR comes from a monthly summary report put out by SuperData listing the top grossing mobile games globally for that month.  

For February 2017, SuperData reported L2R was the top grossing game globally.  But, for March, it reported that L2R dropped to #10. In April, it moved up slightly to #9 (See below).  

 

L2R is no longer $2+ Million USD ARR game of January 2017 nor the $1+ Million USD ARR game of February 2017.  More likely, its March and April ARR is in the range $600 Milion USD.

 

Valuing Netmarble Based on Realistic Expectations for L2R

At the IPO price of 157,000 KRW or $138 USD, the company was valued at $11.7 Billion USD.

Dividing that valuation by analysts forecasts for 2017 revenue of $2.7 Billion,  we arrive at valuation of 4.3 time forward ARR.  This ratio enables comparisons with  market-derived valuation ratios of publicly-held companies. (see below)

For example, in another paper of ours on the Netmarble IPO,  we derived a Valuation ratio for Com2uS of 2.61.  Com2uS is a Korean-based mobile game company listed on KOSPI exchange.   Com2uS is much better known than Netmarble due to its global hit mobile game Summoners War.  

While Com2uS is growing slower than Netmarble, its future sales is more predictable. Based on this comparison, we concluded that Netmarble’s IPO was overpriced by 26%.

In the spreadsheet below,  we also break down Netmarble’s 2017 overall revenue growth forecast into estimates of organic growth versus new sales from L2R — which we peg at $1 Billion.

 The final spreadsheet presents “what if?” analysis of Netmarble’s value and stock price if L2R’s 2017 revenue is $600 Million instead of $1 Billion.

Note that when revenue forecasts are significantly cut back, there is usually a corresponding compression in valuation ratios.  So, we built into our “what if?” analysis a compression of Netmarble’s valuation ratio from 4.3 to 3.5 times forward ARR.  

We predict that the release of Netmarble’s 2Q17 financials, which should happen around August 17th, will confirm a less than doubling of YoY revenue.  We predict that market will react negatively to that reality-check and the stock should settle in around 105,000 KRW or 33% below the IPO price.  

Netmarble Games IPO: A Fast Fade for Lineage 2?

Lawrence Abrams No Comments

Introduction

Netmarble is the largest mobile game publisher in South Korea.

The company has just secured investor commitments to buy 16.9 Million shares worth $2.3 Billion in a May 2017 IPO on the Korea KOSPI stock exchange.  

This IPO would value the company at $11 Billion based on investor demand at the high end of the offer range of $138 USD / share (or 157,000 Korean Won / share)

This is a very big deal. It would be the largest IPO on the Korean exchange since 2010 and second largest tech IPO in the world in the last two years after Snap and ahead of Line.

We will show in detail below that this is a highly speculative IPO, even for mobile game companies who are often dismissed by investors as being one hit wonders.

This IPO is unlike the disappointing mobile game IPOs of King Digital Entertainment in 2014 and Zynga in 2011 where both companies had enough audited numbers in their S-1s to suggest that their best days were behind them.

On the contrary, Netmarble’s best days are ahead of them.  But, investors are insane to give this company such a lofty valuation based entirely on unaudited revenue numbers of a single new game launched only four months ago.

We will present evidence hinting that early annualized revenue run rates (ARR) for the game have slipped noticeably in March 2017 — the third month since launch.  We predict that once investors realize this, the stock should drop 30+% from its expected IPO price.

Evidence of a Drop-off in ARR

On December 13, 2016 Netmarble launched a mobile role-playing game called Lineage ll: Revolution  (L2R) based on licensed IP from NCSoft’s legendary PC game Lineage. According to app analytics company App Annie, the game immediately rose to #1 on the S. Korean iOS Apple revenue rank charts and has remain so to this day.

 

 Just because L2R has remained ranked #1 on the S. Korean charts for the past four months, and likely will continue to do so for months, it is still possible that ARR has declined by $100s of Millions since release.

This is because there is a severe power function relation in the mobile game industry between ARR and revenue rank. Typically, at the top of the USA charts, there can be a $600 Million ARR difference between the #1 and #2 ranked game, say $2.2 Billion ARR for #1 and $1.6 Billion ARR for #2.

For example, below is a power function we derived in an earlier paper on the Netmarble IPO for top ranked games on USA iOS app store.

For the S. Korean chart now, it is conceivable that the gap between #1 ranked L2R and the #2 ranked Everybody’s Marble, also by Netmarble published on Kakao, could be $700 Million or more.

In January 2017, Netmarble told the Korean press L2R generated $176.6 Million in revenue between mid-December 2016 and mid-January 2017. That translates into $2+ Billion ARR.

Obviously, a $2 Billion ARR is not sustainable for the full year of 2017. This is because TOTAL Korean game revenue (mobile + console + PC) was only $4 Billion in 2016, according to Newzoo.

Netmarble has not made any official full year forecasts for L2R nor for the company as a whole. We do know that official 2016 revenue for the total company was $1.34 Billion.

In March 2017 analysts covering the company told The Korea Times  that they expect revenue to double to $2.7 Billion, largely based on the early success of L2R.  Assuming organic growth of around 25%, this implies that the 2017 forecast for L2R would be around $1 Billion.

We present two pieces of evidence that even a $1 Billion in total revenue for 2017 is unlikely.

The first piece of evidence is an App Annie trend chart showing L2R download rank. Note that while L2R was ranked #1 in downloads for the first month since release, downloads have steadily dropped below #30 by late March 2017.  

It is doubtful this drop off was caused by a drop off in advertising by Netmarble.  It is more likely due to a lack of strong word-of-mouth by early players that this is a great game.

The other piece of evidence of a drop off in ARR comes from a monthly summary report put out by SuperData listing the top grossing mobile games globally for that month.  

For February 2017, SuperData reported L2R was the top grossing game globally.  But, for March, it reported that L2R dropped to #10 (See below)

 

 

Valuing Netmarble Based on Realistic Expectations for L2R

As we stated earlier, Netmarble’s IPO is scheduled for May 2017.  Investors have already committed to buying 16.9 Million shares at the top end of the offering range of $138 USD / share or 157,000 Korean won / share.

This values the company at $11.7 Billion.  Dividing that valuation by analysts forecasts for 2017 revenue of $2.7 Billion,  we arrive at valuation of 4.3 time forward ARR.  This ratio enables comparisons with  market-derived valuation ratios of publicly-held companies. 

For example, in another paper of ours on the Netmarble IPO,  we derived a valuation ratio for Com2uS of 2.61.  Com2uS is a Korean-based mobile game company listed on KOSPI exchange.   Com2uS is much better known than Netmarble due to its global hit mobile game Summoners War.  

While Com2uS is growing slower than Netmarble, its future sales are more predictable. Based on this comparison, we concluded that Netmarble’s IPO was overpriced by 26%.

In the spreadsheet below,  we also break down Netmarble’s 2017 overall revenue growth forecast into estimates of organic growth versus new sales from L2R — which we peg at $1 Billion.

 

 The final spreadsheet presents “what if?” analysis of Netmarble’s value and stock price  if more solid evidence starts showing up indicating that L2R’s 2017 ARR will be closer to $600 Million than $1 Billion.

Note that when revenue forecasts are significantly cut back, there is usually a corresponding compression in valuation ratios.  So, we built into our “what if?” analysis a compression of Netmarble’s valuation ratio from 4.3 to 3.5 times forward ARR.  

Official sales figures will start coming from Netmarble a month or so after the end of its 2Q17 quarter in June 2017.  We expect management to guide 2017 revenue well short of initial forecasts of $2.7 Billion due to L2R’s ARR well below $1 Billion.

The stock should fall well below IPO prices.  We predict a decline on the order of 33% by July or August 2017.