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Trip.com Group Limited (NASDAQ:TCOM) Q3 2022 Earnings Call Transcript – Yahoo Finance

Trip.com Group Limited (NASDAQ:TCOM) Q3 2022 Earnings Call Transcript December 14, 2022
Trip.com Group Limited beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $1.58, expectations were $1.2.
Operator: Good day and thank you for standing by. Welcome to Trip.com Group 2022 Q3 Earnings Conference Call. Please be advised that today’s conference is being recorded. I’d now like to hand the call over to your first speaker today, Michelle Qi, Head of Investor Relations. Thank you. Please go ahead.
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Michelle Qi: Thank you. Good morning and welcome to Trip.com Group’s third quarter of 2022 earnings conference call. Joining me today on the call are Mr. James Liang, Executive Chairman of the Board; Ms. Jane Sun, Chief Executive Officer; and Ms. Cindy Wang, Chief Financial Officer. During this call, we will discuss our future outlook and performance which are forward-looking statements made under the Safe Harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements involve inherent and uncertainties. As such, our results may be materially different from the views expressed today. A number of potential risks and uncertainties are outlined in Trip.com Group’s public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Trip.com Group does not undertake any obligation to update any forward-looking statements, except as required under applicable law. James, Jane and Cindy will share our strategy and business updates, operating highlights and financial performance for the third quarter of 2022 as well as some outlook for the fourth quarter of 2022. After the prepared remarks, we will have a Q&A session. With that, I will turn the call over to James. James, please.
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James Liang: Thank you, Michelle. Thank you everyone for joining us on the call today. In the third quarter, we are delighted to see strong performance in overseas markets and improvements in China domestic market, driven by robust travel summer demand and the relaxation for restrictions. Despite the impact of COVID’s resurgence since late August to which overshadowed the China domestic market, in the second half of the quarter, Trip.com Group continues to deliver better than market performance with our domestic hotel and air ticket revenues, both seeing positive year-over-year growth. In China, the adoption of more targeted and precise pandemic control measures in the third quarter has skewed a rise in air travel demand, reflecting the resilience of travel industry and Chinese customers’ strong demand for travel.
Despite the resurgence COVID in the back half of the quarter, although China’s domestic hotel bookings in Q3 showed positive growth over last year and have almost fully recovered to the 2019 level. We are happy to see further optimization in the recent COVID policy adjustments. The new adjustments laid a solid foundation for the rebound of domestic travel and the recovery of cross-border travel. On the international front, our overseas market continued to ride on the growth trajectory and progress towards full recovery to the pre-pandemic level. Overall, hotel bookings in our global platforms in Q3 grew by over 45% versus 2019 and have surpassed 2019 level for three consecutive quarters. The reopening of borders and lifting of quarantine measures in Asia was bringing relief to the travel industry in the region.
The current upswing presents an opportunity for us to further drive into the globalization strategy. As we remain focused on creating values and providing frictionless customer experience to our users, we will be able to gain traction to the post-pandemic travelers. We will continue to dive deep into our global markets by strengthening the cooperation with our global partners and cooperation among our brands and platforms to fortify our one-stop service model, which allow us to accommodate the users’ needs of choice, value, quality and reliability. Overall speaking, it is encouraging to see continuous growth in overseas markets even when the demand for revenge travel has already been largely relieved. As the global market continues to recover with China market heading towards further relaxation, we are now standing right at a turning point.
We remain confident and positive in the long-term growth potential of travel industry and our capability and position in the market. While being cautious to the near-term concerns and uncertainties, we are fully prepared to rekindle the magic of travel. With that, I will turn the call over to Jane for operational highlights.
Jane Sun: Thank you, James. Good morning, everyone. I would like to start with a quick overview of our performance in the third quarter and update on our operational highlights. First, overall performance on China market, in the third quarter of 2022, China domestic travel industry saw robust recovery following the easing of pandemic situation in June and was driven by the strong travel demand in the summer. Our China domestic hotel bookings outgrow the 2019 level by approximately 20% in July and maintained a positive growth in August. Despite pandemic resurgence since late August, our overall domestic hotel bookings still managed to recover to the 2019 level and domestic hotel revenue increased by 25% year-over-year, while the same-city staycation hotel bookings in this quarter grew around 60% versus 2019, we will also see long-haul hotel bookings rapidly picking up as a result of the easing of COVID rules.
Long-haul hotel bookings increased by over 130% sequentially from the previous quarter. Such results reflected the solid demand for long-haul travel and assured our strong performance once the market further opened up. Second, on the global markets, on the other hand, the global market performance continued to improve. Across the APAC, borders are opening and the quarantine measures are being lifted as more and more Asian regions embrace a return to travel, following Japan and Taiwan who opened their doors to travel. Hong Kong also announced the ending of the formal quarantine for international travelers in September. The opening up of East Asia further accelerated the recovery pace in APAC markets after Southeast Asia got a heavy start last year and are already reaping the rewards.
On flight performance, overall air ticket bookings on our global platform, has achieved over 100% year-over-year growth, while air ticket bookings in EMEA and American markets continued to show double-digit year-over-year growth. In Asia-Pacific, the growth was stellar at over 400% above the same period in 2021. We expect to see such momentum extend into the fourth quarter and hopefully can surpass the 2019 level by then. For hotel, overall hotel bookings on our global platform has increased by over 45% above 2019 level in the third quarter with domestic hotel bookings in non-China market increased by 300% versus 2019. As the growth in the global market remains robust, we continued to outperform industry in all our major markets, especially in Asia-Pacific region.
In the third quarter, our hotel bookings in Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, etcetera all saw triple-digit growth over the 2019 level. These markets have been growing by triple-digits over the previous three consecutive quarters and we anticipate further growth in the Asian market. Now on business line. First of all, for accommodation, with accommodation being the center of every single trip and at the core of our one-stop shopping platform, we continue to invest in strengthening our value proposition to our customers and our hotel partners. In China domestic market, we continue to strengthen our product capability and market efficiencies to increase additional value for our partners and to tighten our relationship in order to differentiate ourselves from the other players.
We maintained focus on creating a win-win situation for the parties on the value chain through our TripPLUS program, in which users can enjoy extra benefit and our partner hotels can gain access to our pool of high-quality loyalty customers and create incremental upsides. In Q3, over 50% of our TripPLUS reservations come from high-end hotels. In the lower tier cities, we continued to push forward our co-branded membership programs to expand our customer base. Our domestic brands are also tightening internal collaboration with an aim to attain high user acquisition efficiencies through price competitiveness and a cross-sell from multi-gateway products. On the international front, we continued to delve into intricacies of local markets and remain focused on increasing brand awareness and capturing local user demand as well as strengthening our ties with the local suppliers.
Through expansion of coverage, we could leverage our unique and competitive product offerings to gain traction to a large group of audience. Therefore, improving our market penetration, we continue efforts to push forward with localization and the user experience upgrade initiatives, which will in turn help to drive high user engagement and stickiness which will translate into higher level of visit frequencies, spending and user retention. Following the robust recovery of global travel and tourism, our overseas activity business continued to thrive in Q3 with a record high quarterly GMV increasing by 150% year-over-year. Close collaboration with key partners also enable us to build up our competitive advantage in the market. We have been making great progress in a major market across the Asia-Pacific and Transatlantic regions and will copy our experience in the other markets.
On user engagement, the areas of the global travelers have evolved over the past 3 years from their travel preference to decision-making process. In the third quarter, we continued to improve our content generation and user engagement capabilities. In September, there were 76% more content being generated by our users when compared to the same period last year. In terms of user engagement, average view duration on our content platform increased year-over-year. Average number of content viewed per user also increased by about 25%. Fourth, corporate responsibility. While seizing every chance to create value for our customers and partners, our mission to pursue the perfect trip for a better world is also guiding us to positively impact society and the world.
We care about our communities we operated in. We are committed to engaging with local markets and giving back to the society. According to WTTC’s forecast, the travel and tourism sectors will generate 126 million additional jobs in the coming 10 years from 2022 to 2032, in which 65% will be in the Asia-Pacific region in general and 25% in China, in particular. This aligns with our ambition to help create job opportunities and contribute to the real economy. With corporate responsibility close to our heart, we continue to push forward with our rural revitalization initiatives in China to empower locals to build up a strong tourism and to pursue common prosperity. We currently have 13 Trip.com country retreats in operations across multiple provinces, including Anhui, Henan, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi etcetera.
We also established a multiple rural revitalization academies to offer professionals training to the locals. As a continuation of our Project B, which was launched in year 2020 when pandemic took place aimed to revital our global travel and driving consumption amidst the pandemic. We recently launched Project A as an upgrade. B stands for automating up and A stands for reaching a new peak. Project A is launched with strategies to rebuild our brand image and revive consumer confidence by improving our product and service offerings to reunite the industry by sharing knowledge and building industry incubation center and to reestablish the industry’s social and environmental responsibility by pushing forward our last project to promote sustainable travel.
In overseas market, we also encourage users to think and act together to practice more sustainable travel. In South Korea, we held traveling campaigns by combining beach jogging and litter picking as part of our World Environment Day focus. We also launched a content campaign in our Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong sites for users to share their eco-friendly experiences. Trip.com was also named a champion for good in Singapore. In conclusion, we are delighted to see the world throwing their door open and moving closer towards normalcy and we are proud of the strong results delivered by our team under such challenging markets. We are glad to see further optimization in China recent COVID policy adjustments, which include largely scrapping the health QR code, dropping PCR tests, shortening quarantine period, allowing patients with no or mild symptoms to quarantine at home and removing circuitry mechanism on inbound flight routes that we will help restore the supply capacities.
We believe these new guidelines will largely benefit the recovery of the travel industry. While we may still have to embrace uncertainty from the surge in COVID cases in the short-term, we are confident in the long-term outlook of the industry and opportunities ahead of us. With that, I will now turn the call over to Cindy.
Cindy Wang: Thanks, Jane. Good morning, everyone. For the third quarter of 2022, Trip.com Group reported net revenue of RMB6.9 billion, representing a 29% increase from the same period last year and a 72% increase from the previous quarter, primarily due to recovery in China domestic market and strong performance in our overseas market. Accommodation reservation revenue for the third quarter of 2022 was RMB2.9 billion, representing a 32% increase year-over-year and a 114% increase quarter-over-quarter, recovering to 71% of the 2019 level. This was mainly due to the resilience of local and short-haul travels, which are less affected by pandemic, and a brief recovery in long-haul travel following the easing of restrictions in July and August.
While offsetted by viral resurgence in late August, the rapid recovery in our overseas market also contributed to our hotel business performance. Transportation ticketing revenue for the third quarter of 2022 was RMB2.6 billion, representing a 44% increase year-over-year and a 49% increase quarter-over-quarter, recovering to 70% of the 2019 level. This was mainly due to the easing of travel restrictions in July and early August that facilitated domestic loss for travel and was driven by the summer demand. Transportation ticketing performance quickly went soft for the second half of the quarter due to new rounds of virus outbreak since late August. On the other hand, our international business maintained its growth momentum and was rapidly recovering.
Packaged tour revenue for the third quarter of 2022 was RMB387 million, which remained stable year-over-year and represented a 217% increase quarter-over-quarter, recovering to 24% of the 2019 level. This was mainly driven by the strong summer demand in the first 2 months of the quarter. Corporate travel revenue for the third quarter of 2022 was RMB317 million, representing a 9% increase year-over-year and a 76% increase quarter-over-quarter, 10% higher than the 2019 level, primarily due to the easing of relaxation of travel restrictions in July and August. Excluding share-based compensation charges, our total adjusted operating expenses increased by 15% year-over-year and with a saving of 22% compared to the same period in 2019. Adjusted product development expenses for the third quarter increased by 43% from the previous quarter and was a saving of 10% compared to the same period in 2019.
Adjusted G&A expenses for the third quarter increased by 46% from the previous quarter and an increase of 4% when compared to the same period in 2019. These were mainly related to the increase in performance bonus paid to key operations and technology teams to reward their excellent performance in the quarter. Adjusted sales and marketing expenses for the third quarter increased by 76% from the previous quarter, mainly due to increased amount of marketing investment in China and overseas market to capture the strong recover demand. It was still a saving of 43% compared to the same period in 2019 as we continue to stick with our stringent cost control protocol. Adjusted EBITDA was RMB1.4 billion for the third quarter compared to RMB537 million in the same period last year and RMB355 million in the previous quarter.
Adjusted EBITDA margin was 21% for the third quarter compared to 10% in the same period last year and 9% in the last quarter. Diluted income per ordinary share and per ADS were RMB0.41 or $0.06 for the third quarter of 2022. Excluding share-based compensation charges and fair value changes of equity security investments and exchangeable senior notes, non-GAAP diluted income per ordinary share and per ADS were RMB1.58 or $0.22 for the third quarter. As of September 30, 2022, the balance of cash and cash equivalents restricted cash, short-term investment, held-to-maturity time deposits and financial products was RMB62 billion or $8.7 billion. Turning to the fourth quarter of 2022, we would like to share some color on our business. Quarter to date, the domestic travel performance was soft due to viral resurgence and strict pandemic control measures.
According to public data, industry level air passenger volume in October and November was 70% to 80% below the 2019 level. The hotel side was slightly better than the more resilient local and short-haul demand with industry-level hotel RevPAR 40% to 50% below the 2019 level. In such time of difficulty, we are glad to see our business continue to outperform the industry across segments, with local hotel reservations maintaining positive growth in the first 2 months in Q4. The announcement of updated pandemic-related measures in mid-November sends positive signals, and we were encouraged to see subsequent improvements in the domestic travel reservations. We are also happy to see the authority continue to soften its COVID rules in December with the dropping of health QR code and PCR test result checks before entering most public areas and traveling across cities, among other relaxations.
Outside of China, the travel momentum in Europe and U.S. remains largely stable in this quarter to date. Despite uncertainties and challenges from a macro environment, our business recovery in the APAC, excluding China, also continues to accelerate, and we hope to see better performance in the coming quarters. While the world has been leaving COVID behind and gradually entering a post-pandemic era, we may still have to go down a choppy recovery path in the near-term as uncertainties continues to linger, and things are out of industry and company’s control. We will continue to stick with our spending protocol and cash flow management while I remain cautiously optimistic about the travel environment and be ready to seize any opportunity in the coming future.
With that, operator, please open the line for questions.
To continue reading the Q&A session, please click here.
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