Dangdang seeking additional investment

By Zhang Ye Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-19 23:58:01

Source: Figures compiled by the Global Times    Graphics: GT

NYSE-listed Dangdang, a Chinese business-to-consumer e-commerce platform, is seeking funding from strategic investors, a move analysts said Thursday is in response to its unsatisfactory performance amid the fiercely competitive market.

Li Guoqing, CEO and co-founder of Dangdang, said Wednesday on his Sina Weibo account that the board welcomes strategic investment but has no plan to offer the whole company for sale, refuting recent media reports that domestic search engine firm Baidu is likely to acquire Dangdang.

Dangdang is in great need of financial support for business diversification, as its core operation - media product selling - can hardly have much room for growth, said Lu Zhenwang, founder of Shanghai Wanqing Commerce Consulting.

"The whole domestic book and multimedia market is very small, currently worth no more than 10 billion yuan ($1.65 billion). Also, the gross margin in the market is getting smaller and smaller," said Lu. "Dangdang needs to find new ways to boost profit to stop losing money, since nearly half of the book and multimedia market already belongs to the company." 

The company has been devoting strong efforts in furthering its expansion into other categories of products sold on its platform, but will continue lagging far behind its rivals like Tmall, JD and Suning, given that Dangdang has not shown any competitive edge over the others yet, Feng Lin, an analyst at China e-Business Research Center, told the Global Times Thursday.

Consumers prefer to shop for general merchandise on other platforms - such as buying clothing or shoes on Tmall and smartphones or cameras on JD - since to them, Dangdang is still widely regarded as a site for book purchases, he said.

Data from iResearch Consulting Group indicated that Dangdang only captured a 2 percent share of the domestic B2C online shopping market by sales volumes in the third quarter, ranking seventh, while Tmall led the market with 51.1 percent and JD came in second with 17.5 percent.

According to its financial reports, the company has been suffering losses for a long time since the second quarter of 2011.

The latest third-quarter report showed net revenue of 1.52 billion yuan, lower than its previous expectation of 1.58 billion yuan. Its net loss in the third quarter reached 27.9 million yuan, compared to 100.1 million yuan over the same period last year. 

The reduction in loss is largely because the company stopped burning money blindly this year, said Lu.

"The company set a more specific market positioning, narrowing its focus down to three categories - media products, clothing and products for babies and mothers, so as to spend money more efficiently," Lu said.

It's good to see Dangdang setting up a clearer target, but whether the company can have a bright future is determined by how much capital they can obtain, he noted.

Feng predicted that foreign online platforms may show interest in setting up a strategic investment relationship with Dangdang, which can facilitate them entering the Chinese market.

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